Voyages of the Iron Duchess, Chapter I: A Meeting on Hesperus

Ladies and gentlemen, here is a write up of the first few sessions of the Rogue Trader campaign I am running. Over the next few months/weeks, I am going to be posting regular after-session recaps of what my adventurers have been up to, and what sort of trouble they have been getting themselves into. Enjoy!

 

A meeting is called….

The session began with the player characters all being summoned to a meeting in the Captain’s study. By this time, while all of the player characters were still relatively new to the Iron Duchess, all of them had nonetheless been on the ship at least a few months, and thus long enough to make their presences felt and to become known to Captain Avalon. It was because of this, and because of their unique talents and backgrounds, that they were all summoned for a very important mission.

Meeting the party in the study was a brooding Captain Avalon, his first officer, Aramis Danton, and his master of whispers, Orwell Delaque, the latter two of whom did most of the talking. Danton and Delaque informed the adventurers that months ago they had contracted Elias Harkin, a pirate of some small repute, with retrieving an object for them– a small data-crystal, recently uncovered by a broker on the Hex, containing information that was of considerable value to the Avalon dynasty. Unfortunately, although Harkin had retrieved the crystal, he then reneged on his deal: he was now demanding three times his original payment, or else, he threatened, he would sell the crystal to one of the Avalon dynasty’s many rivals.

At this moment, Harkin and his crew were holed up in Hesperus 7B, an asteroid mining station recently abandoned by the Adeptus Mechanicus, and was demanding an in-person meeting with Captain Avalon there. Danton and Delaque, naturally, smelled a trap, and so instead decided to send this team instead: Madame L’Oiseaux, for her charisma and her skill and negotiation, Magos Andromeda to make use of any still-functional Mechanicus systems, Ka’ra to determined if the crystal was xenotech in origin, Cygnis to use her precognitive abilities in case Harkin was planning a trap, and Dent because of his years of experience in boarding actions.

Planning the Next Steps

Before they made any plans of action, the party asked a large number of questions and made several important discoveries. After much probing, Delaque finally admitted that the crystal in question was (most likely) psychic in nature, meaning the information within could only be accessed by a trained psyker such as an Astropath or Navigator. He further divulged that the crystal was believed to contain a star-map into the Cairn Expanse, which, if true, would have made it utterly invaluable to anyone searching the notorious Expanse for riches. Delaque also revealed that the Cairn Expanse was where Captain Avalon’s father and the family flagship, the Grail of Calyphia, were lost years before, which meant this crystal might have had some personal value to Captain Avalon as well.

As to Elias Harkin, it was speculated that, somehow, he had learned the nature of the information it hid, and so now felt that he could extort the Dynasty given how valuable it was. What was known was that he was most likely waiting in the central mining chamber of Hesperus, and most likely had a well-armed landing party with him. Hesperus itself was situated on the other side of a dense asteroid field that would be difficult for the Iron Duchess to cross, and auspex scans had noticed a few things that didn’t align with original maps of the region– namely that one of the larger asteroids deep into the belt was missing, and there was now a large dust cloud in front of Hesperus that was throwing off auspex scans, and thus making it difficult to determine where Harkin’s ship, the Vulture, was.

As for Hesperus…it remained a mystery why the Mechanicus had left it in the first place. The talk of the sector, however, was that the station still had plenty of backup systems online, and its security systems were still active enough to deter any would-be looters from going into restricted areas.

The heroes quickly came up with a plan that Brigitte referred to as “a silken glove and a mailed fist”: Brigitte, Cygnis, Ka’ra and Andromeda would take a shuttle through the asteroid belt and land on Hesperus to meet with Harkin, and, hopefully, to negotiate the release of the crystal. In the event that the negotiations turned sour, however, or that Harkin was simply setting a trap to hold someone in the dynasty for ransom, then that would be where Dent came in: the Mordian would prepare a boarding party and take a second shuttle through the belt, taking a route that would avoid detection and docking on a separate part of the station. Once they had boarded, they would make their way via stealth to the meeting site, and, if need be, spring upon Harkin and his men the moment things turned ugly. A third shuttle would be waiting on standby in case a hasty extraction was needed.

The preparations were a simple enough affair, that simply involved petitioning the (irate and wheelchair bound) quartermaster Jago Strummer for additional equipment such as flash grenades and, in the case of Dent’s team, a few boarding shields– Dent had very specific ideas in mind for the loadout of his boarding team, and wanted to make sure he got them. Cygnis, meanwhile, used her piloting and navigational skills to plot a course that Dent’s shuttle could take without it being spotted. Dent had a much more difficult task, however, as the squad of armsmen he was given command of was at first reluctant to take orders from a man who had only been on the ship for a few months. A barrage of shouting, threatening and intimidation at the largest of them, however, quickly caused the rest to fall into line.

 

The Abandoned Facility

void_station_web
Artist unknown

As the three shuttles left the ship– all maintaining a safe distance to one another– they were forced to pull some tricky maneuvering to navigate the asteroid field. Luckily, Cygnis, piloting the first shuttle, was more than up to the task, as was the pilot of Dent’s shuttle. Eventually, the first shuttle cleared the densest part of the field and approached the station– a factory complex set atop a massive asteroid. Through the dust cloud, they could see the Vulture moored by anchor cable just above the station– this close, they could see what the Iron Duchess’ auspex could not. The first shuttle managed to dock without incident, while the second shuttle, carrying Dent and his men, managed to stay out of line of sight of the Vulture and dock in a separate part of the station.

Upon boarding, Brigitte and her team established vox-contact with Harkin early on, and proceeded through the station towards the meeting place– although a last-minute malfunction with their shuttle forced Andromeda to stay in the docking bay and repair the damage (the player could not make it to this session).

peter-richmond-warhammer-scene-munitoriumcc. Peter Richmond

As they proceeded through the abandoned halls of the station, Brigitte, Andromeda and Ka’ra found several entrance ways and alcoves that they could potentially have disabled the security systems for and investigated, but they chose not to distract themselves and instead focused on navigating their way to the meeting area. As they progressed, Cygnis sensed two things through psyniscience– the distant presence of another psyker, as well as a vast, slumbering presence, seemingly all around them, that was slowly but surely getting hungry…

Dent and his men, meanwhile, managed to land without incident in one of the station’s upper levels. Like Brigitte and her team, Dent and his men did not allow themselves to be distracted by any of the station’s mysteries.

The two teams managed to arrive at their destination at roughly the same time– a vast, open mining chamber, with a massive drill and several hydraulic claws and cables hanging dormant from the ceiling. A massive, airlock-sealed hole was in the centre of the room. Brigitte and her team  came in through one of the main entrances, while Dent and his team found themselves in an upper-floor office overlooking the chamber, attached to one of the catwalks fixed to the chamber walls.

Harkin was waiting for Brigitte with a landing crew of twelve pirates, along with a hunched, hooded figure that was unmistakably a feral-worlder psyker of some sort. Unaware of Dent and his team overlooking them from the upper floor, Harkin began the negotiation by bluntly stating his demands. In response, Cygnis cast Soul-Scry to give her group a slight, precognitive edge, and Brigitte did what she did best by charming Harkin, leading the conversation and appealing to his pride and greed with counter-offers. Midway through the negotiation, the psyker accompanying Harkin secretly attempted to psychically influence Brigitte…and failed, as her willpower was far stronger than he  had expected, and she resisted his attempted compulsion.

Harkin seemed ready to accede to Brigitte’s counter-offer and take a permanent contract with the Avalon dynasty…until the psyker whispered in his ear, at which point he suddenly became more aggressive, backtracking to his original demands and threatening to hold Brigitte, Cygnis and Ka’ra hostage unless his terms were accepted. It was at this point Dent and his team intervened, throwing a flash grenade through the office window into the mining chamber…and then all hell broke loose.

 

A Firefight Erupts

ac5bfd7cf3f4f363078792d89b0c333b
c. Fantasy Flight Games

After the detonation left Harkin and his men reeling, Dent and his men flooded onto the catwalk overlooking the chamber, firing as they did so. In the ensuing firefight, the pirates were caught by surprise, and several of them were gunned down before they could even react. Harkin himself was left stunned and blinded, and crucially dropped the crystal– which Ka’ra managed to grab before running to a safe position and firing into the pirates. At the height of the battle, the rogue psyker unleashed his mental powers and incapacitated at least one armsman, ravaging his mind with nightmarish visions. In response, however, the Psyker soon found himself being teamed up on in close combat by one Armsman carrying a chainsword, and by Cygnis, who had cast Searing Light and was now wielding the blazing Carmine Lance of Khaine against the psyker.

Surrounded, and wounded almost unto death, the Psyker, in desperation, opened himself up the Warp to draw on as much power as possible. The end result backfired spectacularly, as the ensuing psychic backlash knocked out the Psyker, Ka’ra, Harkin, and every single pirate in the room (and soured any and all dairy products in the area). Cygnis wasted no time in relieving the unconscious psyker of his head with her blazing spear, and with that, the battle ended– such was the speed and overwhelming power of the Armsmen’s surprise attack that Harkin didn’t even have time to summon reinforcements.

Harkin still had one last trick to pull, however. As he and his surviving men were being cuffed by the Armsmen, Harkin came back to consciousness, unleashed a litany of curses, and managed to activate a vox bead on the collar of his coat, screaming for his ship to open fire and obliterate Hesperus. In the ensuing panic, the heroes and their retinue of armsmen grabbed Harkin and began to flee back to the docking bay just as Hesperus began to shake and fall apart all around them. In the midst of this chaos, Cygnis could sense the vast presence she had felt earlier rousing, and could feel its rising anger and hunger.

 

A Conspiracy Revealed?

Meanwhile, back at the docking bay, Andromeda was able to carry out some simple repairs to the shuttle to get it spaceworthy again. With little left to do, and knowing that she couldn’t risk vox contact with the rest of the party in case Harkin was monitoring anything, Andromeda instead decided to explore a little, dispatching her servo-skull into one of the many tiny chutes and tunnels lining the station, which were no doubt designed for servo-skulls to travel through. After half an hour of exploration, during which time she saw everything her servo-skull did through her mind-uplink unit, Andromeda stumbled across a chute that seemed to be blocked by a coded entrance. After managing to successfully hack the console, though, Andromeda’s skull got through the entrance and floated into an empty office– one that had been seemingly abandoned in a rush some time ago, judging by the fact that its owner had left his computer terminal on.

After a few minutes of perusing the terminal via her servo skull, Andromeda discovered that the office had once belonged to a Magos Exelon Vaarn, the head of the Mechanicus facility before it had been abandoned. In the midst of a long, dull list of logistics reports, quota tables and minerological reports, Andromeda found three outgoing messages dated from several weeks ago, sent to a recipient whose name had been, strangely, redacted. In reading these messages, Andromeda discovered that Vaarn had been using his position as a cover for other, more clandestine purposes– that he and the person whom he had been messaging had been looking for something called “the Incunabula,” and that probes that Vaarn had been sending from the station had found its possible location somewhere in the Cairn Expanse. Vaarn also mentioned, in his messages, that he was fearful of discovery by the rest of the Mechanicus, and that that he had had to work in secrecy ever since “the disaster at Mundus Brunnus.” Andromeda found it particularly curious as to why Vaarn was referencing her homeworld, what disaster he was referring to, and what, exactly, he was so afraid of the rest of the Mechanicus discovering.

This was not all that Andromeda learned from the messages, however: in a final, frantic message to the unnamed recipient, Vaarn revealed that a void kraken– a vast, mineral-based entity that feeds on metal deposits– had been discovered in the asteroid belt, and that it had ensnared and eaten an ore hauler before the Mechanicus in the faciltiy had used a converted neutron bomb to destroy it (thus explaining the dust cloud surrounding the station). The void kraken had not been alone, however– after conducting some tests, Vaarn discovered, to his horror, that the asteroid that this entire facility had been built upon was in fact another slumbering void kraken! Vaarn had called an evacuation, and told his co-conspirator that he would meet with him again on Anubis, the primary Mechanicus base in the Kerberus Sector.

It was at this point, however, that the station began to shake violently. Andromeda summoned her servo-skull back to her, just as all hell broke loose…

 

The Beast Awakens

As the heroes finally reached the docking bay, they found that Andromeda was waiting for them in the repaired shuttle, along with the shuttle Dent and his men had come in. After hastily boarding, the two ships sped off into the void. Behind them, the Vulture spotted them fleeing, and strained against its mooring cable as it set off in pursuit, unleashing flak fire into them as it tried to swat them from space.

rt11_1185_void-kraken_417_chunlo
c. Fantasy Flight Games

And then, in that moment, the adventurers saw the station seemingly disintegrate, before the asteroid it was built on suddenly unfolded, dozens of long, rocky tentacles reaching upwards towards the Vulture. From their shuttles, the adventurers watched as what they had assumed had been an asteroid instead revealed itself to be the slumbering void kraken, which, now very much awake, ensnared the Vulture in its arms and tore it apart…much to Brigitte’s chagrin, as she had hoped to acquire that ship once this mission was over.

With the data crystal in their possession, and Harkin now in their captivity, the adventurers sped through the asteroid belt back to the waiting Iron Duchess, their mission a resounding success. Only time would soon tell what secrets the crystal would divulge…

 

Notable Quotes:

“You WILL stand to attention when I order you to do so, you WILL take your place back in line, and you WILL SWALLOW THAT GUM! DO I MAKE MYSELF CLEAR, SOLDIER?!!”-
-Dent, to Armsman Kintelle

“It would seem Mr. Harkin is a piranha that thinks himself a shark.”
-Brigitte

“I hear we’re being called for a debriefing. Aren’t briefs another word for pants?”
“Yes.”
“Why not just call it a depantsing instead?”
“A depantsing is something completely different…although I am sure they are still quite common on this ship.”
-Cygnis and Brigitte

“You grekking…no one bests Elias Harkin, d’ya hear? OPEN FIRE! OBLITERATE THE STATION!”
-Elias Harkin

“He didn’t just…”
“He did.”
“While HE’S ON the station?”
“Yes.”

“That IDIOT!”
-Dent and Ka’ra, on Harkin ordering his ship to fire on the station

 

 

 

Batrep #6: Descent of Angels- Drukhari vs Blood Angels

c. Games Workshop Ltd.

Veteran Sergeant Amadeo leaned leaned down and grabbed Tyrio by the wrist, hauling the Neophyte over the edge of the ruined hab’s second storey. Tyrio was always lagging behind his brothers, Amadeo noted, always falling to the rear in any operation or training session. For some reason, the young Astartes simply lacked the confidence his brothers found so natural, and this was an almost fatal flaw in a Space Marine. Tyrio must have been conscious of his Sergeant’s silent judgement, as Amadeo saw second-long flicker of humiliation cross the young man’s face before he hung his head and hurried over to the edge of the ruined windowsill, taking up an overwatch position on the grey ruins below. The roof to this place had long ago been torn open by Drukhari bombings, and filthy rainwater pattered down on them from the polluted sky above, spattering against Amadeo’s bare head unpleasantly.

The battle for Neo Eboracum had been raging for a month before the Blood Angels had arrived, and had left left roughly ninety percent of the city a devastated husk. The PDF had been bled white by the jagged knife-thrust of the Drukhari onslaught, and the city’s population had been reduced to a few scattered survivors hiding amidst the rubble of their homes. The Drukhari had been on the verge of annihilating the remaining PDF forces when the Blood Angels had arrived, striking back at the Drukhari with the force of a thunderbolt and shattering them on their moment of victory. Now the treacherous xenos had slunk back into the ruins of the city, licking their wounds, harrying and raiding Imperial forces instead of committing to battle. The war had now turned into a game of cat and mouse, with the Sons of Sanguinius and the Eldar raiders engaged in running skirmishes and hit and run battles against one another in the city’s ruined streets. It was a game that would continue until one side or the other committed to an all out assault. 

All the while, the Drukhari continued to prey on the survivors of the hive’s population– in their patrols and raids, Amadeo and his brothers and run across civilians lashed to ruined walls and flayed, their skin opened to the polluted air. Others had been found strung up from ruined lamp posts by razorwire in grisly, macabre poses. More than once, Amadeo and his Scouts had arrived at a scene too late to save survivors from being dragged off by the Drukhari to a fate worse than death. The thought of the inhuman depths of the Drukhari’s cruelty made Amadeo’s blood boil…

His vision suddenly began to blur, his twin hearts began to race, and he felt a horrible dryness and the taste of copper in the back of his throat. He held his needle rifle tightly and clenched his teeth, trying to shut out the urge to rend, to kill, to destroy. Not today, he told himself, digging into reserves of iron will to push the curse back. Not while his Scouts needed him. His vision returned to normal at that moment, the pounding in his chest and his temples subsiding. He hoped none of his Scouts had seen the momentary tension that had creased into his face: he needed them to be confident in him if they were to survive, to learn, and to become full-fledged Blood Angels.

Below the ruined hab, Amadeo could see the strike force getting into position, search lights and helm-lenses piercing the rain-drenched gloom as they set up a firebase in the ruined city square. Some of the new Primaris reinforcements to the Chapter were already performing weapons checks on their massive plasma incinerators, while behind them, Brother Sanctian raised both the arms of his Dreadnought chassis, his twin rotary cannons spinning with barely checked aggression. This was but a lure, Amadeo knew, a show of force daring the Drukhari to come at them. The trap had been set: he made a few quick hand gestures to his Scouts, and they immediately dropped down into hiding positions along the windows of the ruined hab. Across the city block, he knew, other Scout squads were doing the same thing, lying in wait for the Drukhari’s arrival.

Then, at the edge of his hearing, he heard it: a faint, keening wail, like that of a waste-revenant of Baalite myth. It was the unmistakable sound that the Drukhari’s nimble, bladed skimmers made whenever they were approaching at high speed. The fiends had taken the bait. They were coming.

“Ready weapons,” Amadeo whispered, calmly attaching the the scope of his needle rifle while his squad did the same, taking up sniping positions while Artan slotted a krak missile into his launcher. Artan, Tyrio, Vigilio, Morleus…all had their flaws, but all had the makings of fine Astartes as well. Emperor willing, they would all survive this battle to become so.

He felt the ragged grip of the curse clawing at the edge of his mind, and wondered if it was too late to have any hope for himself…

 

 

 

A while back, I managed to get a game of 40k in at one of my local game stores against a Blood Angels player who was recently returning to 40k. Going in, I was admittedly a little apprehensive, as the last time I had faced Blood Angels, my Sisters of Battle had been soundly thrashed. This time, however, I was taking my Drukhari, and this time I was a little more prepared for the Angels’ speed and close combat power.

For my list, I brought the following:

 

KABAL OF THE REVENANT SHROUD (RAIDING FORCE):

KABAL OF THE FLAYED SKULL PATROL:

Dracon Khyrus (Archon)- blast pistol, Djinn Blade, Famed Savagery- 86
5 Kabalite Warriors- blaster- 47
5 Kabalite Warriors- blaster- 47
5 Kabalite Warriors- blaster- 47
8 Mandrakes- 128
Ravager- 3 dark lances- 140
Ravager- 3 dark lances- 140
Razorwing Jetfighter- 2 disintegrator cannons, splinter cannon- 145
Venom- dual splinter cannons- 75
Venom- dual splinter cannons- 75
Venom- dual splinter cannons- 75

CULT OF THE RED GRIEF PATROL:

Karath Deathsong (Succubus)- splinter pistol, Blood Glaive, Adrenalight, Hyper-Swift Reflexes- 50
8 Wyches- shardnet and impaler, Hekatrix w. agonizer, Grave Lotus- 73
6 Reaver Jetbikes- 2 blasters, 2 grav-talons, Painbringer- 154
Raider- disintegrator cannon- 80

PROPHETS OF FLESH PATROL:

Vakkan (Haemonculus)- stinger pistol, electrocorrosive whip, Diabolic Soothsayer- 81
5 Wracks- 45
8 Grotesques- 280
Talos- dual macro-scalpels, twin haywire blaster- 99

Total: 1867

Total Command Points: 6 (+1 from Diabolic Soothsayer)

Starting Stratagems: Alliance of Agony, Prizes from the Dark City

You’ll note that I’m actually behind by slightly more than 130 points. In the original draft of my list, I was actually bringing a Battalion for my Kabal force and more Kabalites mounted in an extra Raider. And guess what genius left his other Archon, and most of his Kabalites, back home? I couldn’t think of what to use to fill in the gap in such short notice, so I just did what I could with me very poor mental math when I got there.

Anyway, in this list, I wanted to try out some new units, particularly the Grotesques/Talos, and hopefully the new model curse wouldn’t be too debilitating. Otherwise, I brought a balance of shooting and close combat power…even though a small part of my brain was telling me that fighting Blood Angels in close combat was a bad idea).

Note: this batrep will feature a lot of unpainted minis. You have my sincerest apologies, readers, I have been quite lazy when it comes to painting my stuff. I will try to make this the last time I use unpainted stuff in a batrep.

 

My opponent, meanwhile, brought the following:

BLOOD ANGELS:

BATTALION:

Captain- Angel’s Wing, thunder hammer, storm shield, Artisan of War
Librarian- jump pack, inferno pistol, force axe, Wings of Sanguinius, Unleash Rage
Sanguinary Priest- jump pack, bolt pistol,  power sword
5 Scouts- bolt pistols & combat blades
5 Scouts- bolt pistols & combat blades
5 Scouts- 4 sniper rifles, 1 missile launcher
5 Scouts- 4 sniper rifles, 1 missile launcher
5 Hellblasters- plasma incinerators
Predator- twin lascannon, sponson lascannons

VANGUARD:

Primaris Lieutenant- bolt pistol, power sword, Veritas Vitae
7 Sanguinary Guard- death masks, 2 power fists
5 Death Company- jump packs, bolters, 3 chainswords, 1 power sword, 1 thunder hammer
Redemptor Dreadnought- Onslaught gatling cannon, heavy Onslaught gatling cannon
Stormraven Gunship- twin lascannon, twin multi-melta, twin hurricane bolters

Total Command Points: 8

Starting Stratagems: Death Visions of Sanguinius (on Captain), Relics of Baal

As expected, the dreaded Captain Smash was coming out to play, along with aome equally scary Sanguinary Guard and some pretty potent shooting units. This game was going to be a tough one.

 

SCENARIO AND DEPLOYMENT:

For scenario, we decided to try one of the tactical objective missions and rolled Spoils of War. Our deployment was as follows:

If you squint a little, you can maaaaybe see something that isn’t a blurry mess.

We had 6 objectives spread across the table. My forces (which are difficult to see, partly due to the blurriness of this pic and partly due to my army’s grey paint scheme) I had my Wyches deploy in their raider, along with Karath and Khyrus, on the far left flank along with my Reavers and Razorwing, while my Coven units and Venoms occupied the centre and my Ravagers hung further behind.

A less blurry photo of the Blood Angel side of things

On the Blood Angels side, my opponent set up a solid firebase of Hellblasters, his Predator and his Redemptor, with is Lieutenant hanging back to provide rerolls to wound. One unit of close combat Scouts hung behind his lines, and one unit of Snipers hid in the upper level of a building to the far right of his side. His other two Scout units hid in the buildings next to my own deployment zone. His Sanguinary Priest and Death Company were mounted up in his Stormraven, while his Captain, Librarian and Sanguinary Guard were held in reserve.

Going into this game, my plan was to deal with his shooting units as early as possible before isolating/neutralizing his close combat stuff. I didn’t think I had anything that could deal with Captain Smash or his Golden Boys in close combat, and if I couldn’t get rid of them with shooting, my best bet was to tie them up with my Grotesques and mob them with as many of my own close combat units and characters as possible.

After deployment, I won the roll off, my opponent failed to seize the initiative, and the game began.

 

TURN 1

In my first turn, I drew Secure Objective 4 (which was not too far from my deployment zone), Critical Objective 1 (which was at the back of my opponent’s zone) and Witch Hunter…which was going to be impossible to achieve this turn on account of no witches being on the board.

Starting the turn, my immediate priority was to eliminate as much of the Blood Angels firepower as possible. In the movement phase, my rightmost Ravager zoomed to the right of the board grab Objective 4 (taking him close to the Blood Angel Scouts in the process), while my other Ravager and two of my Venoms zoomed up to get into rapid fire/blaster range of the Hellblasters. (In my haste I had forgotten to move my third Venom– possibly because it was still unpainted at the time). On the left flank, my Reavers advanced so they were at the foot of the building the Scouts were ensconced in, and my Raider moved to the side of the giant rock formation in the centre, waiting for the right moment to unleash Wyches on something. The Razorwing flew directly on top of said rock formation to get line of sight on those Hellblasters. Finally, the Coven units advanced relentlessly towards the middle of the board, presenting a formidable wall of wraithbone and twisted flesh for the Blood Angels to batter themselves against.

In the shooting phase, the Razorwing dove down on the Hellblasters, unleashing screaming death on them and wiping out two of them its disintegrators and missiles, before its splinter cannon poisoned a wound off of a third. One of my Kabalite squads then fired at them, finishing off the wounded one with splinters before freeming another with their blaster. The last Hellblaster didn’t even have time to swear vengeance before the Kabalites’ Venom opened fire and mowed him down in a hail of splinters, netting me First Blood, and, more importantly, getting rid of the very scary Hellblasters on turn 1.

There used to be Hellblasters here…

The rest of my army, thanks to my inability to guess distances, was woefully out of range of the Predator (the other unit I was really scared of), and so instead another Venom and its Kabalite crew and both of my Ravagers fired on the Redemptor Dreadnought. My dice were on fire, and after the storm of splinters and darklight subsided, I had actually managed to drop the big lug down to 3 wounds! (Three unsaved wounds were even scored on it by splinter fire!) The Wych Raider then fired a sneaky side shot from around the rock formation at the Predator…and failed to wound it. Ah well.

In in the charge phase, my Reavers tried a long charge at the unit of Scouts in the building…and not only failed their charge (despite rerolls from Red Grief), but also lost one of their number to a lucky missile hit. Darn. At the end of my turn, I had scored Secure Objective 4 and First Blood for 2 points.

In the Blood Angel turn, the Sons of Sanguinius got Aerial Assault, Secure Objective 1 and Defend Objective 4. I was reminded that deep strikers can still enter play on turn 1 in their own deployment zone, when the Sanguinary Guard, Librarian, Sanguinary Priest and, above all, Captain Smash came deep striking in front of the rock formation my Razorwing was on. Uh oh.

The Stormraven flew up, looking to target my Jetbikes and various skimmers, and one of the close combat Scout squads near my deployment zone moved up, looking to assault my Ravager on Objective 4.

“They can’t see us, our bright red armour blends in perfectly.” Also please ignore the god-awful freehand on my Ravager’s aethersail

Everything else stayed put, with the Primaris Lieutenant in particular standing at the back of his lines to give out rerolls and hold Objective 1, which was at the back of the board closest to his lines.

In the psychic phase, the Librarian cast Unleash Rage, increasing his attacks and those of the Sanguinary Guard and characters all around him. He then followed up by trying to Smite the Razorwing, but failed. In the shooting phase, the Stormraven split its fire between the leftmost Venom, the Wych Raider and the Reavers; I used the Lightning Reflexes stratagem on the Raider, and as a result, almost all of the Stormraven’s shots missed or bounced off of flickerfields, although one unlucky Reaver was freemed by a lascannon hit.

The Redemptor, meanwhile, fired both guns at my rightmost Venom. Despite its sheer volume of fire, however, it was hitting on 6s thanks to the damage it had taken and thanks to my Venom’s night shield, and the nimble little craft took no damage. Just when I thought I was getting off scot free, however, the Predator fired its lascannons at the same Venom, hitting it, doing an ungodly number of wounds to it and wrecking it in one volley, sending the Kabalites on board tumbling out. One unlucky Kabalite was killed in the wreckage.

Finally, the Scouts in the building fired at the Raider, but again, thanks largely to Lightning Reflexes, did no damage. The Scout snipers close to my deployment zone, however, landed a missile hit on the Ravager on objective 4, and actually managed to do 5 wounds to the nimble skimmer. The close combat Scouts tried to add to the damage with their bolt pistols, but failed. The Sanguinary Guard, at least, managed to plink one or two wounds off of the Razorwing with their Angelus bolters.

In the charge phase, Captain Smash charged the Razorwing, his Angel’s Wing negating overwatch, and the other characters and Sanguinary Guard followed him in.

None of them even needed to roll, however, as Captain Smash easily inflicted 16 wounds by himself on the nimble plane, nearly destroying it twice over (I like to think that Smash slammed into the Razorwing from above and rode the flaming wreckage to the surface). As the wreckage tumbled to the earth, the Blood Angels deathstar consolidated in a cinematic way so they were all standing back-to-back on the plateau, in such a way that I could not reliably get any charging units into base contact with them. Suddenly, my plan of mobbing the Sanguinary Guard with Wyches and Grotesques didn’t look so sound after all, as I actually could not charge them!

The Blood Angels take a moment to indulge in their love of opera

Elsewhere, the bold unit of melee Scouts charged the Ravager. Despite their Red Thirst, however, they either failed to wound the skimmer or bounced off its armour, though the Ravager’s bladevanes did nothing in return. Still, the Scouts were now set up to potentially gain Defend Objective 4 next turn thanks to their “objective secured” rule.

At the end of their turn, the Blood Angels got Secure Objective 1 and Aerial Assault, tying the score between us.

Score:

Blood Angels: 2
Drukhari: 2

 

Amadeo winced as the Eldar jetfighter shrieked overhead, the bow-wave of its flight almost flattening him to the floor of the hab. The Drukhari were striking fast and hard, and already, their insidious weaponry had claimed grievous losses. He could almost hear the cruel laughter from the aliens’ skimmers as they darted to and fro amongst the buildings, spitting splinter and darklight fire into the Astartes positions as they closed in on the Blood Angels.

Amadeo smiled, despite himself, as he heard a quick report on the vox from Captain Castivar. The Drukhari thought that they had run into a small, isolated force of the Astartes. They had but encountered the anvil…and the hammer would soon be upon them. 

No sooner had he thought this when he saw multiple twin-tailed jets of flame in the gloom above, bearing down on the battlefield like a cluster of meteors. The Razorwing must have seen them as well, and tried to evade too late– far too late, as an armoured figure, borne aloft on wings of flame, barrelled into the Drukhari fighte from above like a living bullet, swinging out with a crackling hammer…

The Razorwing’s hull caved downwards like a glass sculpture, shattering into thousands of tiny fragments even as the aircraft was consumed in a ball of flame. The armoured figure simply plummeted on through the explosion before striking the earth, his hammer thudding into a plateau with enough force to split rock. As the figure stood, bracing himself upright on his hammer, more figures descended next to him, their jetpacks forged in the shape of soaring angelic wings, their golden armour shimmering brilliantly in the firelight. 

“Always one for dramatic entrances, eh, Captain?” Amadeo muttered dryly.

 

TURN 2

In my turn, I discarded Witch Hunter (because I figured that it would be tricky trying to kill the Librarian, given that right now he was surrounded by a wall of golden masked dudes), and drew Area Denial and No Prisoners. Unfortunately, there was a big mob of Sanguinary Guard just barely within 6″ of the centre of the board, so I wouldn’t be denying any areas yet, although I was more than capable of taking No Prisoners (though that’s not very thematic for the Drukhari, admittedly)

With me now unable to mob the Sanguinary Guard now that they were standing as they were on the plateau, however, I was forced to circle them instead, with my Reavers and Wych Raider skirting around into the Blood Angels’ backfield to shoot his Dreadnought and Predator from behind. (If only rear armour shots were still a thing). The Mandrakes, meanwhile,  crawled out of Aelindrach, ready to face the nearby Scouts in the Blood Angels backfield.

The damaged Ravager, flew out of combat with the Scouts, while my two remaining Venoms zoomed into rapid fire range to deal with these pesky Astartes noobs. Finally, the other Ravager shuffled a bit, as did the disembarked Warriors, and my Coven units continued their relentless advance forwards. I was hoping to tempt the Sanguinary Guard into a charge into my Grotesques: although I was fairly certain that the Guard would mess my wraithbone monsters up, I was also confident that the Grotesques would hold long enough for the Talos (and hopefully also my Wyches and characters) to join the fray.

In the shooting phase, the Reavers split their fire, firing their blasters at the Redemptor in the hope of finishing it off, and their splinter rifles up into the Sanguinary Guard.  Naturally, they whiffed against both targets– one of these days, maybe, my Reavers will actually kill something. The wounded Ravager was forced to do the deed itself, gutting the Redemptor with an accurate dark lance shot and leaving it a smoking wreck. Turning my attention to the Sanguinary Guard, my grounded Kabalites failed to damage them at all, but my Wych Raider picked up the slack, vaporizing two of the golden warriors with its disintegrator.

Elsewhere, the other Ravager used Masters of the Shadowed Sky to get +1 to hit against the Stormraven…and hit once, and failed to wound. Sigh. Moving on.

In the Blood Angel backfield, my Mandrakes unleashed their baleblasts into the rearmost Scout squad, scoring something like 9 or 10 wounds and obliterating them in fell swoop. Well done, creepy shadow dudes! In my own backfield, both of my Venoms, plus their crews, pumped shot after shot into the Blood Angel Scouts…only for the plucky Junior Marines to make save after save. After firing 36 splinter shots (rerolling 1s) and 2 blasters into the Scouts, I managed to kill 4 of them…leaving 1 of them very much alive and holding Objective 4, and with it a victory point. Argh!

In desperation, I charged both Venoms, and the wounded Ravager, into the last Scout, but only one Venom made it in. I hit and wounded with the Venom’s bladevanes, and the Scout obligingly failed his save…until my opponent used a command point to reroll the save, and got a 6! Although the Scout no damage back, it didn’t matter: he was holding objective 4, despite my best efforts, and my Venom couldn’t contest it thanks to the Blood Angels’ “objective secured” rule. My opponent crowed in jubilation, declaring his Scout to be a hero…

…until he failed his morale test on the Scout twice in a row, and the Scout spontaneously combusted on the spot. Oh. Well. That was anticlimactic, but I’m not complaining.

At the end of my turn, I had only managed to achieve No Prisoners…and the d3 roll for my number of victory points from that stratagem came up as a 1. Despite a very effective shooting phase this turn, I had only managed to score one victory point. Harumph.

In the Blood Angels turn, the Sons of Sanguinius discarded Defend Objective 4 and got Secure Objective 6, Valour of Angels and Noble Sacrifice. They must not have liked those Drukhari Reaver punks riding bikes in their backyard, as the Death Company disembarked from their Stormraven to go deal with them, as did the Primaris Lieutenant. Meanwhile, the Sanguinary Guard had had enough of standing on a hilltop looking cinematic, and they, the Librarian, the Sanguinary Priest and Captain Smash all flew up to say hi to my Grotesques. Finally, the Stormraven hovered around to grab Objective 5 and shoot more of my stuff.

In the psychic phase, the Librarian cast Unleash Rage, buffing himself and all of the Blood Angels around him. He then cast Smite on my Grotesques, and suffered perils, taking 2 wounds (after rerolling the result with a Command Point) but at the same time zapping down one of my Grotesques. In the shooting phase, the Sanguinary Guard and assembled characters combined to do 2 wounds to my Grotesques with assorted pistols and Angelus bolters. Further back, the Death Company and Lieutenant only managed to do 1 wound to the Reavers. The Stormraven once again split its fire, and wiped out my footslogging Kabalites with its hurricane bolters after I failed to make a single save. Its lascannons and multi-meltas, however, either failed to hit my Ravager, or bounced off of its flickerfield after some much better rolling on my part.

The Predator fired on my Raider, but thanks to a combination of poor rolls and good saves, it only suffered 3 wounds from lascannon freemage. A unit of sniper Scouts tried their luck on the Raider as well, but failed to hit with their missile launcher. Finally, in my own backfield, the other unit of sniper Scouts once again fired on the wounded Ravager, and managed to plink another wound off of it.

In charge phase, the Sanguinary Guard and accompanying characters charged into the Grotesques, with the dreaded Captain Smash rolling high enough to make base contact with the Haemonculus as well. The Death Company and Lieutenant, meanwhile, both charged the Reavers, shrugging off my overwatch in the process. (My opponent later told me that he had thought that my Raider could not actually be charged, on account of its Fly keyword, and hence did not multi-charge it even though he really could have).

I anticipated that my Grots would take a lot of damage from the Blood Angel deathstar, and had two command points on standby in case they needed to auto-pass morale. In close combat, Captain Smash used Red Fury and split his attacks between Lazhareq and the Grotesques; however, my invulnerable saves and ignoring wounds from Power from Pain went into overdrive, and the Grotesques took no damage, although Lazhareq took a nasty hammer blow and was left teetering on one wound. The Haemonculus was quickly finished off by an axe-blow from the Librarian, while the Sanguinary Priest and Guard tore into the Grotesques, cutting down two of them and doing 3 wounds to another. In response, the Grotesques used their scalpels and unleashed an insane number of attacks of their own, cutting down three Sanguinary Guard and doing a wound each to the Sanguinary Priest and Captain Smash. Holy cow! Instead of taking massive losses like I had expected, my Grotesques had both held their ground and dealt a bloody nose to the Blood Angels in return. Clearly, I had underestimated my recently-converted wraithbone freaks.

Elsewhere, the Death Company and Priest slammed into the Reavers with the force of an avalance, cutting down three of the nimble jetbikes for no loss. The last Reaver at that point decided he had better things to do, and fled the battle after failing his morale test.

At the end of the turn, the Blood Angels suddenly scored a hefty surge of points, scoring 2 points from Valour of Angels (for killing my Haemonculus with Captain Smash) and 1 point for holding Objective 6 with the Stormraven. All of a sudden, I was losing.

SCORE:

Blood Angels: 5
Drukhari: 3

 

TURN 3

This turn, my entire army got +1 to hit in close combat thanks to Power from Pain. I drew Defend Objective 6, which was doable…provided that I managed to destroy the big, ugly Stormraven hovering directly above it. With the Blood Angels right at my doorstep, it would have been rude not to say hello: the Talos and Wracks moved up towards the big melee in the centre, while my Wyches, Succubus and Archon disembarked to deal with the Death Company.

My healthy Ravager zoomed up towards Objective 6, hoping to kill the Stormraven and hold the objective for two turns, while my other Ravager and both Venoms zoomed around to bring their guns to bear on the Stormraven as well. The Mandrakes, in the Blood Angels backfield, moved up, hoping to grab Objective 1 next turn.

In the shooting phase, the Mandrakes flung baleblasts at the Predator, and managed to do 2 mortal wounds to it. The Wyches and Succubus fired their pistols ineffectually at the Death Company, while Khyrus fired his blast pistol at point blank range into the Lieutenant…and rolled a 1 to wound. Obviously, the battery needed recharging. Everything else in my army focused fire on the Stormraven, with lances, blasters and splinter rounds shooting up at the big flying brick. In the end, I managed to reduce the Stormraven to 3 wounds, but it was still airborne, and still denying my Objective 6. Darnit.

In the charge phase, the Wyches charged the Death Company, and lost 2 to surprisingly accurate overwatch before making it in, and were quickly joined by Karath. Khyrus, meanwhile, charged the Lieutenant to see if Primaris Marines were as tough as GW said they were.

Elsewhere, the Talos charged into the Blood Angels Librarian, and the Wracks, not having much better to do, flung themselves at Captain Smash in the hopes of avenging their fallen master.

In close combat, Khyrus drove his Djinn Blade into the Lieutenant’s heart and killed him outright, before consolidating into the Death Company. The Wyches managed to cut down two of the berzerking Marines, while Karath managed to slice down two more, leaving one frothing madman whose return blows were easily dodged by the Wyches.

In the big central combat, the Talos flung itself onto the Librarian and bisected him horribly with its macro-scalpels, killing him…and giving my opponent a point thanks to Noble Sacrifice! Um…whoops. My Wracks also managed to poke a wound off of Captain Smash. In the rest of the fight, the Sanguinary Priest managed to hack down the wounded Grotesque, while Captain Smash smashed three wounds off of another, the corrupted Wraithguard saved only by Power from Pain. In exchange, the Grotesques managed to kill another Sanguinary Guard and did another wound to Captain Smash, and the combat dragged on. This turn, though, I had managed to score none of my tactical objectives, much to my frustration.

In their turn, the Blood Angels drew Mission Critical Objective 1 (uh oh) and a few other things I can’t remember. Surrounded on all sides by Wyches and Drukhari heroes, the last Death Company Marine had a sudden burst of sanity and fled combat (despite my Wyches and despite their shardnet!), flying over to grab Objective 1. The damaged Stormraven, meanwhile, came flying into the backfield, hovering behind my Wyches so that my Archon was the closest model to it. Everything else, at this point, was either in close combat or was holding still to fire heavy weapons.

In the shooting phase, the Stormraven fired everything it had into Khyrus. Despite the fact that it was hitting on 5s, its hurricane bolters still did 3 wounds to the Archon..and naturally, the first of his shadow field saves came up as a 1. Staggering from three bolt wounds, Khyrus nonetheless laughed and nonchalantly asked the pitiful mon-keigh if that was all they had. The Stomraven answered with a direct multi-melta hit that turned Khyrus into free-floating vapour, netting the Blood Angels Slay the Warlord.

The Blood Angel shooting didn’t end there, though. Seeing that my Succubus was also the closest target, the Predator focused all of its shooting on Karath. This time, however, my dice saved me, and Karath elegantly dodged all of the lascannon blasts. The nearby Scouts, at least, managed to snipe and frag missile down two Wyches. The other Scouts tried to knock out one of the Venoms, and once again either missed or failed to wound.

In close combat, the Talos once again put its scalpel-arms to grisly work, hacking apart the Sanguinary Priest. In response, Captain Smash killed another Grotesque, while the Grotesques cut down the last of the Sanguinary Guard, and the Wracks once again stabbed a wound off of Captain Smash. After consolidation, Captain Smash now found himself alone and surrounded by Grotesques and Wracks; the Talos was unable to get into base contact with Smash, and thus was freed from combat.

In the end of the turn, another Wych was lost to morale. The Blood Angels got Critical Objective 1, but only rolled a 1 for their victory points. Still, at this point, their lead had increased significantly. I was now afraid that I was going to out-fight the Blood Angels, but still lose the game on points.

Score:

Blood Angels: 8
Drukhari: 3

 

TURN 4

This turn, my entire army would be auto-passing morale thanks to Power from Pain. I got Scour the Skies. My leftmost Ravager stayed where it was on objective 6, while my Venoms each went after one of the Blood Angel Scout squads. Karath and her last Wyches moved after the Predator, while the Mandrakes crept towards the last Death Company Marine on Objective 1. Unable to get at Captain Smash now that he was surrounded, the Talos simply shrugged and hovered past the combat to add its haywire blaster to the mix against either the Stomraven or the Predator.

In the shooting phase, my healthy Ravager once again fired at the Stormraven. This time, I managed to hit the flying red brick and do 6 wounds to it, finally bringing it crashing down in a blaze. Everything else– the damaged Ravager, the Talos, the Raider and the Mandrakes– all fired into the Predator and dropped it down to 2 wounds. On the left flank, one Venom, hovering on a rock formation for leverage, fired along with its passengers into the Scouts on the upper floor of the ruins, but only managed to kill two of them. On the right flank, the other Venom and its crew fired at the Scouts in my backfield…and this time, the Blood Angels must have forgotten to wear their armour, as all 5 were mowed down in a hail of splinters.

In close combat, the Mandrakes charged the last Death Company Marine, while the Wyches and Karath charged the Predator, losing two to surprisingly accurate overwatch on the way in. In close combat, the Mandrakes tore the last Death Company Marine limb from limb and took Objective 1, while Karath put her Blood Glaive to good use and sliced open the Predator before butchering the crew within.

In the ongoing central close combat, the Grotesques laid into Captain Smash with their flesh gauntlets…and did no damage whatsoever, the one mortal wound they scored being ignored by Death Visions of Sanguinius. The Wracks, similarly, failed to take Smash’s last wound, and in return, Smash did what Smash did best and smashed down another Grotesque. Thanks to Power from Pain, the Grotesques simply fought on without worrying about morale.

Why won’t you die?!!

By the end of my turn, I had achieved Scour the Skies, Critical Objective 1 (for which, sadly, I rolled only a 1), and was well on my way to achieving Defend Objective 6. I was still behind on points, but the Blood Angels didn’t have much left on the field.

In the Blood Angels turn, the last Scouts held their ground, and, seemingly knowing that things were counting on them, fired on the Ravager on objective 6 and did 4 wounds to it with a krak missile. With that short shooting phase out of the way, we went on to combat: Smash once again laid into the Grotesques, and smashed down another of the wraithbone monstrosities, leaving only two left to fight him. In reply, the Grotesques once again attacked with their flesh gauntlets…and this time, managed to inflict a mortal wound on him that he couldn’t ignore. The mighty Blood Angels Captain finally dropped, convulsing and twisting as the flesh gauntlet warped his body.

With that, I had scored Slay the Warlord and Defend Objective 6, putting me narrowly behind my opponent’s lead:

SCORE:

Blood Angels: 8
Drukhari: 7

However, at this point, my opponent recognized that with only three Scouts left, he was likely to be tabled next round, and formally conceded the game.

 

VICTORY TO THE KABAL OF THE REVENANT SHROUD!

 

Thoughts:

Going into the battle, I wanted to try to tie down/neutralize his Sanguinary Guard as soon as possible instead of allow them free reign to move around. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to do too much damage to them before they slammed into my Grotesques. What ultimately saved me was the Grotesques themselves: I had underestimated not just how resilient those bad boys were (and to be fair, 4 wounds each at toughness 5/6, a 4+ invulnerable save and ignoring wounds on 6s is nothing to sneeze at), but how much pain they can dish out in close combat: by turn 3, they were dishing out 5 attacks each, hitting on 2s, wounding on 3s and forcing -2 to the Blood Angels’ saves (all for a ludicrously cheap price– at 35 points each, they are cheaper than thunder hammmer/storm shield Terminators!) These things are absolutely mean, possibly the nastiest close combat unit in the Drukhari book (other than Talos), and I would not be surprised if they received some sort of points hike in the next big FAQ.

Looking back, my opponent made several crucial errors, the most notable being sticking his Hellblasters at the front of his force, out in the open. Even if he had been going first, I would still have been in a position to focus my return fire on them and wipe them out as soon as possible– and I would have done so, given how scary their plasma weapons are. Also,  although Captain Smash managed to kill quite a few of my Grotesques, I think he would have been put to better use flying around on his own and charging my vehicles– not only would I have been unable to overwatch him, but he would have had a large threat range thanks to Descent of Angels/Upon Wings of Fire, and his insane damage output would have meant he’d have been able to annihilate any vehicle of mine he charged. If he had ignored my Grotesques and used his mobility to chase down and kill my vehicles (and particularly my Ravagers), the game would have gone much differently. Alternatively, if he had sent his Death Company in alongside his Sanguinary Guard, maybe the fight in the centre would have ended differently.

Overall, though, I’m quite pleased with the performance of most of my army– my Grotesques amazed me on their first outing, the Talos similarly performed decently, my Mandrakes once again cleaned out the enemy backfield, and my firepower once again was impressive– even in a force not designed to optimize firepower, I was able to reliably destroy or maul my opponent’s units with concentrated firepower. Only my Reavers, once again, died without accomplishing much. I’m beginning to wonder if I should replace them with something else, or if it’s simply their aggressive play style that causes them to get shot down so early.

I should also note that my opponent was a really fun guy to play against, and he kept his head up and kept playing for objectives even as his army took heavy losses. I literally had to focus on tabling him just to avoid losing on points. I definitely look forward to the possibility of facing him again.

 

Amadeo ducked as another round of splinters scythed across the abandoned hab-unit’s ledge, crystalline impacts sending rock fragments shattering in all directions, granite shards stabbing into his cheeks and temple. Shrugging off the minor injuries, he gripped his rifle and checked over his squad. Artan was dead, lying against the wall near him, his body bloated and discoloured under his armour after he had been riddled by poisoned Drukhari splinters. Morleus was wounded, with Tyrio and Vigilio fighting to stabilize their brother as his wounded shoulder rapidly became infected from the Drukhari toxins. But that was nothing compared to the scene unfolding on the city streets below them. 

The battle was lost: though the Sons of Sanguinius had struck with with all of the speed and the fury they were renowned for, the ever-mobile Drukhari had been able to regroup quickly and respond in kind. Little by little, the battle had gone against them: Venerable Brother Sanctian had been sundered by xenos darklight weapons, his Redemptor chassis now slumped over in a smoking wreck; the strike force’s Stormraven had been brought down in a ball of flame, even after its passengers, the Forlorn Hope of the Death Company, had died to a man. The Sanguinary Guard– the golden heirs of Azkaellon, the finest warriors of the chapter– had reaped a terrible toll upon the Drukhari, but in the end they too had been laid low by xenos blades. Amadeo could see their bodies littering the field, their armour a dull bronze under the weeping grey sky. Only Captain Castivar remained standing, fighting alone in the grip of the Black Rage while surrounded on all sides by twisted wraithbone monstrosities. The Captain fought like Sanguinius himself, a red tempest of motion as his thunder hammer described great golden arcs back and forth, each blow sundering one of the xenos constructs with a thunder-crack of shattering wraithbone and a terrible, almost ghostly death-wail. For a moment, Castivar seemed invincible, the towering forms of the Drukhari constructs falling one by one to his crackling hammer, forming a mound around him as he fought with all of the rage of of his bloodline.

That is, until one of the xenos constructs stabbed a long, spike-tipped arm below Castivar’s pauldron. The Captain jolted at the wound, the fury suddenly leaving his eyes as his hammer fell from his numb gauntlets. As Amadeo watched in horror, Castivar toppled over, his body starting to convulse as black veins crawled up his throat and spread tattoo-like across his face. Amadeo turned his head away. He could not bear to see what happened next.

All was lost. He felt a deep well of sorrow build within him– a sorrow soon twisted into the deepest, blackest rage.

His vision began to blur again, his breath stifling as pulse quickened to a percussive drumbeat in his chest. He shut eyes eyes and turned to his last Scouts, who were still fighting to stabilize Morleus. “Take him and get to the extraction point,” he ordered. “I will cover your retreat.”

Tyrio looked up in surprise at Amadeo. “But Sergeant–“

“Don’t argue with me, Neophyte!” Amadeo snapped, already feeling the rage building within him. “You three are the future of our Chapter, and so you WILL survive this day! Now move!”

Tyrio looked like he was going to argue at first, but instead he gave a slow, solemn, nod. As he and Vigilio began to rappel down the side of the building with Artan held between them, Amadeo turned back to the carnage of the battle site, the details lost in the increasing blur of his vision. He closed his eyes and dropped his rifle, surrendering at long last to the curse that had been building inside of him these past few weeks.

****

Sanguinius opened his eyes to a sight of destruction. Terra was burning, its magnificent spires gutted by hungry flames, its once majestic plazas and squares choked with rubble, its once resplendent arches and statuary toppled and fallen. Cavorting amidst this wreckage, striding mockingly over the fallen bodies of his sons, were the Traitors– the ones who had raised their banners to Horus in rebellion, the ones who had declared their allegiance to foul things in the Warp, the ones who sought to undo every achievement humankind had made since the Great Crusade had begun. The very sight of these flawed, spiteful creatures filled him with a vengeful rage. There were hundreds of thousands of them, rebellious banners raised high..and somewhere among their number, Sanguinius knew, Horus walked…

The Lord of Angels drew his sword, spread his wings, and leapt from the walls of the Palace to bring death upon the Traitors…

 

 

 

Rogue Trader- The Characters

THE PLAYER CHARACTERS:

 

 

c. Games Workshop

Reginald Callaway Dent (Arch-Militant)

Homeworld: Imperial World (Mordian)

Birthright: In Service To The Throne (Tithed)

Lure of the Void: Duty to the Throne

Trials and Travails: The Hand of War (Hatred: Orks)

Motivation: Devotion (Duty)

 

(Background supplied by player):

Reginald C. Dent enlisted in His service at the age of 16. He served one tour of duty in the Mordian Home Guard, and then was transferred to the Mordian 501st Regiment, wherein he saw action for three and a half years in the defence of the hive world of Starrax against an Ork Waaagh! In the aftermath of this war, the decimated 501st was reassigned to system defence duty. During this time, Dent served in a boarding party aboard the light cruiser HMMS (His Majesty’s Mordian Ship) Triumvirate for nine years, of which a total of almost five were spent within the warp. He participated in five aggressive boarding actions (three against Chaos raiders, one against an Ork Rokk and one against a Eldar cruiser) and defended against fifteen assaults in close proximity to the Mordian system. Eventually, he rose to the rank of Master-sergeant. He became well known for his skill with a lasgun, and often preferred it to the more common boarding shotgun used by boarding party units. He became quite well known for his sharp shooting, even when under fire.
At the age of 22, Dent was transferred to the compliance garrison on Tomak III, an industrial plant not unlike the world Armageddon had been, before the Orks had fallen upon it like the fist of an angry god. It was on the planet’s secondary hive where he served almost a year as a drill sergeant for before making the single biggest mistake of his career.
At roll call one morning, a group of three privates from the Tomak PDF came in looking “slovenly and unkempt,” as he would describe in his incident report. Dent gave the three men a stern dressing down and placed them on KP duty for a week. Out of habit, he later passed by the canteen to check up on his punishment detail. What he saw was two of the men he had sent down there, and some unrelated warrant officer Dent had never seen before. Upon investigation, he discovered that this warrant officer had somehow been assigned in the third private’s stead.
Dent was furious. He stormed into the barracks where his charges were quartered and raised bloody hell, shouting, cussing and demanding all manner of justification for just HOW this private had countermanded his orders. The private in question was belligerent and terse. He told Dent that the Mordian didn’t have the right to give him orders, and the fact that he HAD issued a punishment detail at all was (according to this insolent whelp) grounds enough to have him demoted, should he bring the matter to the local aristocracy.
Dent would have none of it. He bellowed that under his command, his word was law. Only the Inquisition or the Emperor himself would countermand his will.

Unfortunately, this was not the case. The private in question was fourth in line for the planetary governorship– a detail indicated in the man’s paperwork, but something Dent had not considered at any point during these proceedings. It took only one letter, and 72 hours for the full weight of Dent’s mistake to become manifest.

Due to his record, and awards for bravery in the face of the enemy many years prior, the request of the planetary governor to have Dent publicly executed was denied. Instead, Reginald was drummed out of the Guard, given a dishonourable discharge and sent, penniless and alone, into a world he did not know, a disgraced man.

For 5 more years, Dent drifted from port to port, world to world. He took jobs on freighters and civilian transports to make ends meet. It was on a lonely Feast of the Emperor’s Ascension, where he sat drinking in some ale house on some Emperor forsaken space dock above the least relevant colony, seemingly, in the subsector, that he met a man. A man who offered to clear his tab. An offer the drunken, dejected Dent failed to refuse. When he awoke that Feast Day morning he was on a ship he did not recognize surrounded by many of the reprobates he had been drinking among the night before.
He had accepted the Purser’s shilling. He now owed the ship, and his new Captain, service. While most of his hungover cohorts attempted to bargain their way out of their predicament, Reginald C. Dent saw it as a new beginning.
Notes:

-Dent still carries his Guard-issue lasgun, which he has since modified and maintained to excellent quality. Furthermore, he still has and wears his old Iron Guard uniform, which he diligently keeps pressed and spotless.

-In addition to his lasgun, Dent is typically armed with an Ork choppa he took as a trophy from the battlefields of Starrax. It is a crude melee weapon he uses, not only to prove his might in combat, but to put fear into the hearts of Orks as he kills them. He knows that Orks see Humans as weak, and incapable of using Ork weapons. Dent loves the incongruity of his impeccable uniform against the garish axe, slung over his shoulder like a woodcutter`s tool.

 

(Artist unknown)
Cygnis (Astropath Transcendent)

-Homeworld: Voidborn (Eldar Corsair fleet, original world unknown)

-Birthright: Scapegrace

-Lure of the Void: Renegade (Recidivist)

-Trials and Travails: Shiplorn

-Motivation: Exhilaration (New Horizons)

(Intro written by player)

Celatara appeared on a human world that was being consumed by the Tyranids, armed only with a blade and dressed in her funeral shroud. She looked up at a slate-grey sky, the clouds roiled like waves. Her eyes tracked down to the seething mass of limbs and claws surging forward with a single will toward her. She draw her sword and saluted the mass.
“And this how I die.”

The sword stabs into the ground, ichor falling off it in thick globs. Celatara follows it, her head hanging low, the sweat dripping off her and mixing with the ichor. She leaning forward on the hilt, resting her weight on the barely crackling blade. A cry of a living child interrupted her, jerking her head toward the sound.

The child is sitting in the ruins of a house, all alone. Blood covering the left side of its face, tears tracing pathways like webway tendrils. Celatra slowly drags herself to her feet and stumbles towards the noise. She reaches her hand down to hush the child as if it was her baby cousin. “Don’t cry.” The words were the same. The child was so small in her arms. The blue eyes blinked at her, tiny fists rubbed at her eyes. “I’m-”
“Cygnis” Celatra interrupted. Where did that come from?

She steps back and feels a strand move under her heel. The Lictor rises behind her, Celatra reaches for her sword as she turns her head. But her hand closes around nothing. She looks down in shock, the Lictor rearing back to strike as she stands conflicted. Celatra moves but the claw continues to her head, the child’s head tucked into her chest. The claw falls toward them, like a harvester’s scythe.


It slices: grey dye, cured leather, and that was all. The claw lands in the ground shaking, riddled with cracks. It snaps like a dry branch, and the Lictor draws back the destroyed limb, roaring its pain. Cygnis’ hand held out, open, towards the creature to push it back. Celatra put her hand down as she jumps away from her opponent. Her feet scrapes along the broken bits of brick and metal in the ruins. She ran hard as the Lictor roared again, charging toward her.


Celatara’s hand closes around the hilt barely in time. She turned to slice through the monster’s thick hide. It slumps to the ground in pieces.


Celatara pants for air staring at the still quivering half of the monster. It’s dead, and she… Celatara looks down at the girl.


“You did that?” She shifts the child up her hip. “But if you stay here. Alone…” A few fresh tears cut new paths in the blood and dust its face. Her…her face. “But my ship needs you and I will help you.”

The young woman known Cygnis was found by the Eldar Corsair Prince Celatara when she was only 4 or 5 years old. A foundling left orphaned on her world by a Tyranid attack, Cygnis was found and rescued by Celetara, though the Corsair’s motivations have never been clear– perhaps Celatara was moved by the mon-keigh girl’s plight, perhaps she sought to heal the wound caused by the death of her own family, or perhaps Celatara sensed the raw psychic power that this human possessed. Whatever the reason, Celatara took hold of this young girl and retreated with her back through the webway, and back to the shelter of her flagship.

Over the next few years, the girl grew up among the Corsair fleet, her presence disliked at first by the Eldar, but nonetheless tolerated because of the Corsair Prince’s strict command. At Celatara’s orders, Cygnis was taught the Eldar language, and under the tutelage of the flagship’s Void Dreamer, she was taught to hone, focus and use her psychic abilities, particularly in aid of navigating the ship. Over time, while the Corsairs continued to see Cygnis as a mon-keigh, and thus as inherently inferior, their attitudes towards her warmed somewhat– to them, this was proof, at least, that even the mon-keigh could be “civilized” by being taught Eldar ways. Whether Celatara ever shared their views, however, was unknown.

One day, however, while Cygnis was meditating, she was woken violently by the sensation of the flagship suddenly translating out of warp. The next thing she knew, the ship began to shake as though it were under attack. At that moment, Celatara appeared, grabbed a hold of Cygnis, and told her that it was time for her to rejoin her own people, before pushing her through a teleportation matrix. When the flash of light subsided, Cygnis was standing on the soil of a human colony world, alone and abandoned.

Since then, Cygnis has wandered the worlds of the Kerberus Sector, looking for signs of the Corsair fleet and what happened to it. After one unfortunate and near-fatal run in with the Adeptus Arbites, Cygnis stuck to the more isolated frontier worlds of the sector, always staying to herself…that is, until she met Tiberius Avalon, who saw promise in her precognitive and navigational abilities and took her in as part of his crew. Since then, Cygnis has found a measure of safety aboard the Iron Duchess, although she continues to search for the lost Corsair fleet, hoping to at least learn the fate of her adoptive “family.”

Notes:
-Although she is human, Cygnis sees and thinks of herself as an Eldar. This is mainly because she was, for all intents and purposes, raised by the xenos and taught their language, customs and culture. Because of this, Cygnis always refers to her fellow crew as “mon-keigh,” and only has a passing familiarity with Imperial customs and traditions. She reinforces this self-image of an Eldar by dressing in the cloak and of a Ranger and keeping her ears covered. To the common bystander, her appearance, manner and movements are all those of an Eldar, and only one who is well-studied on that xenos race, or who manages to see her with her hood lowered, would realize that she is in fact human. It is because she appears so alien, and willingly isolates herself from other humans, that her crewmates tend to view her with suspicion if not outright distrust– only the patronage of Captain Avalon ensures that she is tolerated aboard the Iron Duchess.

-Cygnis carries several pieces of Eldar equipment on her person, not the least of which is a cameleoline cloak given to her by a Ranger she encountered in her travels. She also carries a shuriken pistol that she had on her when she was teleported off of Celatara’s ship, and a spirit stone that Celatara gave her when she was still young. Though it is uncertain whether a spirit stone could contain Cygnis’ soul in the event of her death, Cygnis nonetheless uses it as a focus for her psychic powers.

 

(Madame de Fer by HyperBali @DeviantArt)

Brigitte L’Oiseaux (Seneschal)

-Homeworld: Noble Born (Tethys)

-Birthright: In Service to the Throne (Born to Lead)

-Lure of the Void: Duty Bound

-Trials and Travails: Lost Dynasty

-Motivation: Pride

(Background supplied by player):

Brigitte was born the first daughter of the L’Oiseaux dynasty, a prominent noble house upon the Imperial water-world of Tethys, and was marked from birth for leadership. Trained over the course of decades to eventually take command of House L’Oiseaux, she proved further excellence in achieving the seat of Planetary Governor and bringing Tethys further into the grace of Imperial society. Her first term in office saw marked improvements in tithing and trade, severe reduction in open heretical obeisance and the building of strong ties with all echelons of Imperial society. A successful appointment to a second term of leadership promised the elevation of the Tethysan way of life to an unheard-of level of peace and prosperity, if not a true golden age for the once-heretical and backwater planet.

A mere four days after her appointment – not even long enough to complete the extensive celebrations such an occasion would warrant – Tethys found itself engulfed in a tendril of the Gyre and, to all available instruments, vanished into the Warp. It was by fortune alone that Brigitte was off-world at this time, having instead been commisserating with her valued peers of House Chasson upon their orbital seat of Voidthrone. Awakening aboard her sumptuous quarters to find that her hazy images of loss and madness had been more cruel reality than dream, she strove to put things to rights – only to discover that her once-allies of House Chasson had effectively confined her to house arrest under suspicion of cowardice and collusion with unclean forces. Not only had her home, her family, and her very planet been snatched out from under her, but Beauregard, the head of House Chasson, had used the disaster to entrap her for slights imagined in the distant past.

Knowing that to remain on Voidthrone would be to practically accept interrogation and incarceration for manufactured crimes, Brigitte used her peerless guile and charm to manipulate an exit from her gilded cage and locate allies aboard the drifting and world-lorn station: the Iron Duchess. Captain Tiberius Avalon had been a trading partner in the past, and Brigitte successfully leveraged their relationship to earn a berth aboard the vessel and escape from the traitorous House. Now loose in an uncertain universe, Brigitte L’Oiseaux serves as Avalon’s High Factotum, bringing effective diplomacy and real prosperity to the noble Rogue Trader – and, at the same time, working to unite the disparate Tethysan refugees and recover as much as she can of her lost world.

Notes:

-Brigitte is often attended by her two servants– her sommelier, Amadeo, and her handmaiden, Soeur Kathima, both of whom are survivors of Tethys like herself.

-Brigitte fervently believes that Tethys survived the warp storm, and remains pristine and unravaged by the Gyre. It is uncertain, however, if this is faith and optimism on her part, or a madness borne of desperation.

-Brigitte has insisted upon writing her own biography.

 

Techpriest Ivarella by Gray-Skull

Andromeda (Explorator)

-Homeworld: Death World (Mundus Brunnus)

-Birthright: Savant

-Lure of the Void: Renegade (Free Thinker)

-Trials and Travails: Calamity

-Motivation: Renown

The techno-radical known as Magos Andromeda originally came from Mundus Brunnus (or simply “the Brown Planet” to the locals), a death world ravaged by radiation storms, large-scale pollution and a highly toxic atmosphere. Born into an isolated community of scavengers, Andromeda grew up exploring the remains of her world’s previous human civilization, and became fascinated with the archeotech contained within– particularly the still-functioning AI systems that the previous civilization had left behind. It was because of this fascination with technology that she joined the Adeptus Mechanicus, and, later, as a full-fledged Techpriest, returned to Mundus Brunnus as part of an official Explorator mission to recover archeotech from the planet.

Upon her return to her homeworld, however, she found an Ecclesiarchy mission there, converting her people to the Imperial creed. Horrified by what she saw as the blind dogmatism and the fear of invention and innovation that the missionaries preached, Andromeda one day hacked the holo-pulpit the lead missionary was using to deliver a mass, and delivered a manifesto to the assembled congregation, urging her fellow Brunnians study and use the technology that they scavenged, and in particular, urging them not to fear artificial intelligence, declaring that the creation of thinking, self-aware machines like those used by their ancestors would help propel humankind to new heights of invention and technological mastery.

Understandably, the fallout of that incident was catastrophic. The Ecclesiarchy declared her to be a blasphemer, while the Mechanicus eventually too formally accused her of tech-heresy and excommunicated her. Forced to flee, Andromeda found refuge on the Iron Duchess, and has since served as the ship’s resident archeotech expert.

Notes:

-For the most part, Andromeda eschews the typical robes of the Martian Priesthood, preferring instead standard civilian wear. It is only when she absolutely needs to put on the appearance of a Techpriest that she dons her traditional robes, which (unlike in the picture above) are a forest green in colour

-Though she has paid lip service to the creed of the Mechanicus in the past and has, by necessity, had to memorize most of the prayers and rites of her order, Andromeda is at heart an atheist, and does not believe in the Machine God or in machine-spirits– to her, everything can be explained by rational scientific observation. Obviously, however, she has had to keep such heretical views hidden from her more dogmatic Techpriest brethren.

-Andromeda’s two main cyber-implants consist of a mind-impulse unit embedded into her skull (from which dozens of extendable plugs flow out in place of natural hair), and a pair of bionic eyes fixed into place by permanently-attached metal goggles. The eyes were a replacement of necessity as well as convenience, for Andromeda had been partially blinded by the neglect of her parents back on Mundus Brunnus.

 

 

(Artist unknown)

Shas Ka’ra (T’au Fire Warrior)

Homeworld: Fortress World (Vior’la)

Birthright: Child of the Creed (aka Servant of the Greater Good)

Lure of the Void: Hunter (Hunted)

Trials and Travails: The Hand of War (Hatred: Orks)

Motivation: Endurance

Prior to her long exile into Gue’la space, Shas’ui Vior’la Ka’ra was a Fire Warrior who had already served with distinction on many battlefields, including Arkunasha and the battlefiels of the Damocles Crusade. Because of her stellar record, she was eventually chosen to join the expedition of the great hero, Commander Farsight…and years later, she would be one of the many Fire Warriors who renounced the Ethereals and pledged their loyalty to Farsight upon the foundation of the Farsight Enclaves.

In the aftermath of the formation of the Enclaves, however, Ka’ra began to notice troubling things about Farsight– namely that his personality was slowly changing, that he was becoming more aggressive, authoritarian and tyrannical, and that the Enclaves were becoming more insular and militaristic. Never one to hold her tongue, Ka’ra spoke out openly against Farsight, decrying him as having become just as oppressive as the Ethereals, or worse, as having become possessed by whatever malign influence powered the Dawn Blade. In response, she was imprisoned, and, pending a decision of her punishment, was put into cryo-stasis indefinitely.

Fate, however, had other ideas. Some time after she was frozen, Ka’ra’s cryostasis was interrupted when the world she was on came under attack by an unknown enemy. Ejected from her cryo-pod, Ka’ra managed to slip away in the ensuing chaos and steal a shuttle, managing to escape the planet and ultimately flee the Farsight Enclaves. After years of drifting through Imperial space, disguising herself where possible, Ka’ra met Tiberius Avalon, who, upon discerning that she was a T’au, did not report her to the authorities but rather offered her a place on his ship– as a man dealing with xenos technology, he told her, he needed someone who knew what that technology did and how to operate it. And so Shas Ka’ra joined the crew of the Iron Duchess, a renegade to both the Empire and the Enclaves…though she still yearns one day to return to the T’au Empire and be with her people once more.

Notes:

-Before her imprisonment, Ka’ra was often accompanied by her two faithful Gun Drones, Ex and Vee. Their core personalities remain uploaded into Ka’ra’s neural implant, allowing them to converse with her…and annoy her…without the need of physical bodies.

-At some point in her career, Ka’ra lost her entire squad. The loss of her bond-mates took a heavy toll on her, and even before her exile, she acted in isolation as a Mon’at.

-Ka’ra was able to take very little equipment with her when she escaped from the Enclaves, aside from a pulse pistol and ammunition. Bereft of typical T’au armour, she has instead been forced to rely on whatever she could barter or scavenge. She presently wears a suit of battered, second-hand Guard flak armour, and whatever human weapons she uses have been ergonomically altered to suit her four-digited fingers. On human-dominated worlds, she keeps her true nature hidden by concealing her features behind a heavy gas mask. The only part of her facade that she has difficulty with are her feet, as human foot ware is not designed to accommodate cloven T’au feet.

Rogue Trader- The Avalon Dynasty

All photos (c) Games Workshop Ltd

Continuing on with the background of my Rogue Trader campaign, here is the dynasty and the captain that my players will be serving under, and the ship they will be sailing the void on.

 

THE AVALON DYNASTY

ORIGINS

Originally, the Avalon dynasty was a simple merchant cartel from the lunar hives of Calyphia, albeit one with considerable mercantile reach and influence across the sector. For a time, they were the pre-eminent dealers in rare ores, mining equipment, and, above all, brews from Calyphia’s famed wineries. This all changed, however, when the Ork hordes of Waaagh Skargrod rampaged across the Kerberos Sector in M35. Heeding the desperate call to arms by the Imperial Navy, the Avalon cartel contributed ships and armsmen to the fight, and were present at the pivotal Battle of Farside which saw the Ork Waaagh finally destroyed. The Chapter Master of the Ultramarines personally lauded the Avalon clan for their bravery in the battle, and in the aftermath, in recognition for their deeds, the Adeptus Terra granted the Avalons a Warrant of Trade, with a writ to explore the far reaches of the Eastern Fringe, and to bring new worlds into the Emperor’s light.

In the millennia since, the Avalon dynasty enjoyed fame and success in their role as a Rogue Trader house. Their ships plumbed the depths of the Eastern Fringe, bringing twenty-two worlds into compliance (five of which became established Imperial worlds), and more importantly, bringing wealth and splendour back from the lightless realms beyond the Astronomicon. With fame came enemies, however, and before long the Avalons found themselves embroiled in rivalries and trade wars with other Rogue Trader dynasties, particularly the Valkens and the Destraads. Even so, the Avalons’ influence grew to the point that they had the ear of the sector governor, and they had numerous off-world holdings and sources of wealth beyond stately Calyphia.

DISASTER

In M41, however, the dynasty’s good fortune all came crashing down. The dynasty’s flagship, the Grail of Calyphia, a venerable grand cruiser, was lost in the Cairn Expanse, along with several hundred thousand of House Avalon’s loyal retainers and, worst of all, the dynasty’s patriarch, Quintus Avalon. It is not known what caused the destruction of the Grail— whether it was pirates, or xenos, or some other force of destruction– but the wreckage of the grand ship was found drifting amidst the asteroid belts of the depths.

The news of this disaster had barely hit home when an even greater catastrophe struck the whole of the segmentum. In what is now known as the First Tyrannic War, the living tide that was Hive Fleet Behemoth suddenly swept into the Eastern Fringe from beyond the galactic edge, devouring whole worlds and leaving entire systems barren and lifeless in its wake. Though Calyphia was, thankfully, spared the attentions of the Tyranids, much of House Avalon’s offworld holdings and sources of wealth were caught in the path of the Hive Fleet, and lost to that all-consuming tide.

In the wake of this period of calamity, the Avalon dynasty remains one of the prominent Rogue Trader houses in the sector, though it has fallen behind many of its peers in influence, and it is generally regarded as a pale shadow of its former glory. The current head of the dynasty, Catullus Avalon, has primarily concerned himself with restoring his dynasty’s fading wealth– securing trade interests and political alliances with other noble families in the sector, re-establishing lucrative offworld contracts, and safeguarding whatever assets the dynasty has left– all at the expense of any further deep space exploration. His brother Tiberius, however, chafes at this conservative approach, and longs for the Avalon dynasty to stride into the unknown once more.

SIGIL

The sigil of the Avalon dynasty is a goblet, set against a crescent moon. The moon represents the dynasty’s home of Calyphia, while the goblet, historically, represents the Avalons’ origins as wine traders. Symbolically, however, it conveys so many more meanings– power, nobility, wisdom, spirituality, and even the pursuit of pleasure. Below, in High Gothic, is emblazoned the dynasty’s motto, “Let Not The Spirit Fade.”

 

 

Tiberius Avalon

Seen as one of the most renowned trailblazers in the Kerberus Sector by some, and as a charlatan, a scoundrel, and a degenerate by others, Tiberius Avalon is not a man who is afraid of being talked about. The eldest of the remaining children of Quintus Avalon, Tiberius is well into his ninetieth year, and rejuvanat drugs have only succeeded in making him look closer to his fifties. A well built man with a finely trimmed red beard, a neatly ponytailed length of hair, chiseled facial features and laughing blue eyes, Tiberius is a boisterous and passionate man, equally at home on a tavern-chair or at the bench of his spinet as he is on his command throne.

Like all scions of the Avalon dynasty, Tiberius was made to go through service in an Imperial institution before he was allowed anywhere near one of the family’s ships. After a mercifully brief career in the Imperial Navy in which he narrowly avoided a court martial, Tiberius began serving in his family’s fleet, before rapidly rising to command one of the dynasty frigates. Eventually, though, he was granted the venerable light cruiser Iron Duchess, and it was with this ship that he truly won fame, glory, and no small amount of infamy.

In one expedition into the outer edges of the Cairn Expanse, Tiberius is recorded as having discovered twelve new systems, and more importantly, recovering a long-lost STF template that was worth a planetary governor’s ransom in wealth, a feat that made him almost a household name in the sector. Subsequent voyages of the Iron Duchess were no less daring in their scope, and tall tales of him soon began to spread among the backwater drinking-holes and gaudy nobility of the Kerberus Sector alike– tales of how he famously duelled and slew the pirate Kagran Knife-Eyes on the burning bridge of a battleship, of how he outsmarted a host of robotic sentries to open up (and loot) the long-lost tomb of the Xankuthi Fiends, of how he uncovered and thwarted a vile cult of the Dark Powers and single-handedly defeated them all with his bare hands…the tales about Tiberius are wild, fanciful, contradictory, and no doubt in part spread by Tiberius himself. The extent to which they are true is the subject of some drunken debate throughout the sector.

But just as Tiberius is famous, so too is he infamous. In many social circles his name has become associated with scandal, with whispers abounding that there is nothing under the Astronomicon’s light that he has not drunk, smoked, injected or inbibed, and that there has been many a debauched incident in the past that his family’s money has had to make disappear. Similarly, it is whispered that he has had numerous trysts with noteworthy women and men alike across the sector, and that his affairs at this point are beyond counting. If Tiberius is aware of any of these scandalous whispers, however, then he is either unconcerned with them, or indeed, even enjoys being a figure of controversy. To his family, however, and particularly his siblings Catullus and Ophidia, who maintain control of the dynasty, Tiberius’ antics are a persistent and headache-inducing nuisance.

Some, however, have speculated that there is an underlying sadness to Tiberius’ zest, that his hedonism is as much self-destructive as it is decadent, and that his constant seeking out of danger is in truth a suicidal race to oblivion. His closest confidants and crew have admitted that Tiberius has not been the same since his beloved wife Julietta died two decades ago, some say to the poison of a rival dynasty. Others note that the loss of his father with the family flagship, and the loss of most of his dynasty’s holdings and wealth, has put a greater and greater strain on Tiberius as the world he has always known starts to crumble around him.

There are even dark whispers still about Tiberius that suggest that he has been up to ill dealings outside of the prying eyes of the Imperium– that he has been making a fortune in the trade of forbidden xenos artefacts, and worse, that he has actively trading and collaborating with xenos. Though these are all but whispers, they have been enough to cast a dark pall on Tiberius’ reputation, and even worse, have reached the ears of his estranged siblings on Calyphia.

Despite his cavalier attitude and miscreant behaviour, however, Tiberius is not the self-serving, amoral vagabond that some would paint him as. Though he does little to show it, he remains loyal to the Imperium and to the God-Emperor, even if he does have a very relaxed attitude towards Imperial law and Ecclesiarchial tenets. Furthermore, he is fiercely loyal to his family, to his house, and by extension, his crew, and has been known to fight duels, dive into fistfights, perjure himself and even endure strenuous fines to protect those under his command. This, if nothing else, has inspired his crew’s unwavering loyalty to him, through thick and thin, and many of them would follow him into the Maelstrom itself if need be…

 

The Iron Duchess

dauntlessclass250925221.jpg

A Dauntless-class light cruiser, the Iron Duchess has been in the possession of the Avalon dynasty for millennia, sailing the void with a stately grace that echoes her name. Currently under the command of Tiberius Avalon, the Iron Duchess has undertaken no less than one hundred and fifty three voyages throughout the dynasty’s history, and has a legacy of service that makes his command of her a mark of personal pride for Tiberius. The exact history behind the Iron Duchess, however, is unclear, as many of the Avalon family’s records from the 36th Millennium and earlier have been lost, either to war, arson or sabotage. The earliest dynasty record of the Iron Duchess mentions that ship fending off reavers in the Seqorra Belt. Beyond that, the origins of the ship remain a mystery.

That, of course, hasn’t stopped rumours from sprouting about the ship. There are some claims that the Iron Duchess‘ hull was originally wrested from a space hulk– and indeed, some even claim that the space hulk in question was the dreaded Rok of Ages that eventually formed the Hex, with the one hull piece taken by the nascent Avalon dynasty as a prize for their role in the defeat of the Ork armada. Other, more fanciful tales suggest that the ship was built by a long-forgotten forge world, crafted by means long forgotten to even the Mechanicus, and that technological marvels lie unlocked and undiscovered within her hull– or worse, kept secret by the Avalons. Some still claim that the Iron Duchess is in fact a cursed ship, its decks haunted by the lingering ghosts of its first owners and its beams groaning under the weight of the damnation it carries with it. Only the wizened chief archivist of the Avalon dynasty may know the truth, and he has kept stubbornly silent on the matter.

Regardless of her origin, it cannot be denied that the Iron Duchess is a majestic ship for one of her light size. Painted in the wine-dark red, gunmetal silver and blazing brass of her dynasty, the Iron Duchess cuts a regal figure as she glides across the void like a noble lady at a ballroom. Her towers and buttresses are carved in stately, classical lines, more akin to those of some ancient manse rather than a castle or fortress, and at her prow, above her armoured ram, stands her figurehead– a beautiful woman of indeterminate age, holding a goblet in one hand outwards, as though in a toast or in an offering. The voidfarers who have served on the Duchess have noted that her machine spirit is a resolute one, her systems continuing to function even when suffering severe damage. This resolute nature has a downside, however, as often her enginseers struggle to get the ship up to an optimal speed, both in realspace and in warp-space translation. As her crew is often fond of saying, “a lady doesn’t like to be rushed.”

 

Statistics:

Iron Duchess– Dauntless class light cruiser

Crew: 65,000

Components: Jovian pattern class 3, drive, Strelov 2 warp engine, Gellar field, multiple void shield array, command bridge, M1-r life sustainer, voidsmen quarters, m-100 augur array, compartmentalized cargo hold, observation dome

Weapons: port Mars-pattern macrocannon broadside, starboard Mars-pattern macrocannon broadside, Titanforge lance

Complications/Past History: Resolute, Wrested from a Space Hulk

Shuttle Compliment: 2 gun-cutters, 4 Aquila shuttles, 20 Arvus lighters, 2 heavy cargo lifters

 

Officer roster of the good ship Iron Duchess, as of 999.M41

Lord-Captain- Tiberius Avalon

First Officer- Aramis Danton

Enginseer Prime- Magos Nikolaev Gogol

High Factotum- Brigitte L’Oiseaux*

Master-at-Arms- Khan Harzen

Master Helmsman- Terryn Mkrae

Cutter Pilot- Calan Mkrae

Master of Ordnance- Victorix “Boom” Bumhauer

Master of Etherics- Namataj Saru

Master of the Vox- Miko Sekuta

Master of Whispers- Orwell Delaque

Choirmaster Telepathica- Hirom Modrin

Warp Guide- Mistress Kassandra Selethon

Void Dreamer- Cygnet*

Ship’s Confessor- Heloise Bronwyn

Drivesmaster- Gudrun DeCalefax

Omnissiac Congregator- Nexis-Thul-557

Archeotech Specialist- Andromeda*

Chief Bosun- Mari “Mother Mari” Ingenua

Bosun’s Mate- Reginald Callaway Dent*

Purser- Aldous Fenn

Carto-artifex- Ziri Shylo

Ship’s Steward- Jago Strummer

Chief Chirurgeon- Maxim “Maks” Fyodorovich

Avalon Dynasty Barrister- Euphemia Belacourt, ESQ

Captain’s Butler- Mortimer Crane

Infernus Master- “the Pyreman” (real name unknown)

Twistcatcher- “Obadiah the Unseen”

Xenotech Specialist- Ka’ra*

Sommelier to Madame L’Oiseaux- Amadeo

Handmaiden to Madame L’Oiseaux- Souer Kathima

*Player character

 

 

Rogue Trader- The Kerberus Sector and its worlds

(Above image by Fantasy Flight Games and Games Workshop)

 

So I’ve decided to take the time to write about the sector of space that my upcoming Rogue Trader campaign is going to take place in. While all of the planets and regions listed below are big points of interest, they are not by any means exclusive, and there are dozens of other such planets and locations that my party may yet stumble upon…

THE KERBERUS SECTOR

Located in the Ultima Segmentum to the galactic east of Ultramar, the Kerberus Sector is one of the many regions of Imperial space situated dangerously close to the ever-expanding border of the T’au Empire. Located as it is in one of the further edges of the Segmentum, the Kerberus Sector, for the most part, always been regarded by the Administratum as a backward wildnerness space. Part of this is due to the fact that the light of the Astronomicon shines a little more dimly in this sector, both due to the sheer distance from Terra and also due to the pervasive interference caused by a local warp-storm, the Gyre.

It is perhaps because of both the more limited presence of the Astronomicon and the neglect of the Administratum that Kerberus does, indeed, live up to its reputation as a wilderness. Outside of the more “civilized” worlds such as Kerberus Prime and Calyphia, corruption, piracy, illegal trade and heresy are rife in the sector: on many worlds, Imperial control is limited or even nonexistent, and there are hundreds of asteroid belts, gas clouds and warp-anomalies in which pirates, smugglers and scavengers can hide. To make matters worse, xeno ships have been becoming more and more commonplace throughout the sector in the last millennium, with Ork pirates, Kroot spheres and even Eldar raiders appearing and attacking more and more brazenly. The limited Imperial naval presence in the sector is spread thin, constantly trying to put out a hundred different fires as once…and the looming threat of the T’au simply adds to the stress of the Navy’s strategos. The top naval commander in the sector, Admiral Hallsmark, believes that it is only a matter of time before the T’au attempt to expand into Kerberus, and fears that his limited fleet will be unable to stop them when they do so.

Despite– or perhaps because of– Kerberus’ isolated nature, the space lanes of the sector are a hub of activity. Numerous trade cartels throughout the sector keep commercial traffic active and alive, and no less than three Rogue Trader dynasties call the sector home. The degree to which this trade is legitimate, however, is of a matter of contention, and unsubstantiated reports persist of Kerberan traders engaging in commerce– and in some cases alliances– with alien races. These rumours are of particular concern to the Ordo Xenos, in part because of the potential harm an underground market of alien artefacts and technology could create, and in part because such a market would breed fertile ground for subversion and dissent that could be sown by agents of the T’au.

Kerberus’ proximity to the outermost edges of the Ultima Segmentum– and to the edges of known Imperial space– also make the sector an ideal springboard for exploration voyages, and dozens of ships venture into the void each year to explore the unknown, to seek out long lost worlds and civilizations, to find new worlds to settle, and, perhaps most importantly, to find wealth and plunder. Most of these ships disappear the moment they move beyond known space, but occasionally, these brave explorers will return with tales of wonder…or occasionally, of horror. There are dockside legends of what lurks in the great expanse– of cemetary-worlds populated by the unquiet dead, of abominable intelligences inhabiting an artificial planet, of a sentient black hole that actively seeks soul-matter…though whether these are true stories, or the ravings of madmen, has yet to be determined.

 

hive_city_spires___w40k__by_derbz-db2lc7l543819605.jpg

(Image by derbz at DeviantArt-https://www.deviantart.com/derbz/art/Hive-City-Spires-W40K-669482769)

KERBERUS PRIME

The world for which the Kerberus Sector was named, Kerberus (official Imperial classification Ceta Kanis III) is an ash-shrouded cinder of a world whose desolate surface and high temperatures seem to evoke the hellhound for which it was named. Indeed, one Administratum analyst, upon landing on Kerberus and seeing its scorched surface and rivers of molten rock and chemical fluids, famously remarked that “they have finally sent me to Hell.”

A hive world boasting a population in the billions, Kerberus Prime is one of the focal points of industry in the sector, with a populace of workers churning out thousands of machine parts, prefab units, vehicle chassis and arms and munitions on a daily basis. The world’s primary hives exist in spite of the hostile environment surrounding them: estimated to have been colonized perhaps two or three centuries before the Great Crusade, Kerberus is a turbulent world which, due to a comet impact centuries before, is wracked with constant earthquakes, volcanic activity, storms and smog-clouds that have rendered the planetside a barren wasteland. The planet’s two major oceans have been rendered toxic by extreme pollution and chemical saturation over the centuries, and due to the rapidly diminishing state of the world’s polar ice peaks, the planet relies heavily on a massive underground network of water reserves.

Life-forms on Kerberus have evolved to adapt to the harsh climate, and include such monstrosities as Titan Worms, Landcrawlers, sludges, chem-nautilus, and various bacterial and lichen-based species. The most notable lifeforms, however, are drakes, which are focused mainly around volcanic regions. For centuries, the drakes have been the largest threat to the people of Kerberus– massive, thickly-scaled beasts that fly on great wings, the drakes descend from their volcanic homes to regularly attack convoys, factories, and hab-areas. It is for this reason that Kerberus is such a heavily-fortified place, and why the Kerberians are such a hardy folk. On Kerberus, to be caught outside the city walls for a day or two means death, and this is a reality that the Kerberians have had to live with for centuries.

The population of Kerberus is confined to several massive forge-cities, each one situated in the vast mountain ranges ringing the deadly planet. The cities of Kerberus are designed both as self-sufficient factories, and as fortresses to ward the population against the dangerous wildlife. The population of Kerberus is divided into two classes- the workers and serfs who toil day in and day out to survive, and the ruling elite. The workers perform a myriad of jobs, from water and food-maintenance, assembly-line work in the factories, and various other tasks, each of which is absolutely crucial for the greater whole of the population to survive. For the workers, life is hard, as they not only have to fulfill their quotas, but must also hope to survive. Despite this, the Kerberians perform their tasks unflinchingly, and even take a measure of pride in their resolute efficiency.

The elite– or “firedwellers” as they are called, both because they live in the hottest, yet temperature-insulated, parts of the cities, and because of their quick tempers– are the upper class of Kerberus. For centuries, they have been the ones who have organized beast-hunts and have fought against marauding monsters and drakes. For the firedwellers, one cannot advance up the social ladder unless they have proved their valour and fortitude in a hunt: the better a monster-fighter one is, the better their rank. It is for this reason that the planetary governor– or Lord Protector, as the official Kerberian term goes– is one who has ascended to his office by killing a drake. The current Lord Protector of Kerberus, Tyrus Kragorev, also happens to be the Imperial Commander of the Kerberus Sector, although his administration thus far has failed to curtail the growing rate of piracy in the sector, a fact that frustrates both him and the Administratum in equal measure.

As the most industrious and developed world in the sector, Kerberus fulfils an important administrative role as the sector capital. As such, both the Administratum and the Adeptus Mechanicus have a major presence on this world, particularly in Urcanis, the principle hive city., with numerous administrative buildings, shrines and forges making their home there– although it is a recurring joke that the Administratum offices on Kerberus Prime are either secretly abandoned or have long run out of paper, given how slow the Administratum is to act in the Kerberus Sector. The Mechanicus also have a forge complex of their own on Kerberus’ principal moon, Anubis, which serves as the Mechanicus’ administrative and spiritual seat in the sector as well as the closest thing that the Kerberus Sector has to a forge world.

 

ringsfromsurface21157913097.jpg

(Artist unknown- from https://worldbuilding.stackexchange.com/questions/79003/making-a-slow-orbit-around-a-large-gas-giant)

CALYPHIA

A verdant world to the galactic east of the sector, Calyphia enjoys a position both as one of the prime agri-worlds providing food and produce to the rest of the Kerberus Sector, and as one of its main trading hubs. Calyphia is in fact a large moon orbiting Parthenos, a ringed gas giant the colour of faded azure. Colonised millennia ago in the aftermath of the Great Crusade, Calyphia is the result of further millennia of terraforming and bio-modification. The result is a paradise world of soaring blue mountain ranges, fields of lavender grass, dense woodlands and wide open seas, and a sky where the ringed outline of Parthenosis always vaguely visible.

The population of Calyphia is concentrated into a few coastal hive cities, the ornate spires of which are said to glitter against the night sky. Unlike most other planets in the Imperium, they generally enjoy a comfortable standard of living. This is in part due to the offworld trade that regularly brings wealth back to the planet– in addition to regular agri-harvests to meet Imperial tithes, Calyphia is renowned as a trader of luxuries, providing the rest of the sector with fine wines from its vinyards and gemstones mined up from its mountain ranges. To facilitate this trade, the orbital dockyards of Calyphia are some of the largest and most sophisticated in the sector, and as such Calyphia is a frequent stop for ships coming into and out of the sector.

Calyphia is also noteworthy in that it is the home of the Avalon rogue trader dynasty. Originally themselves a free trading guild from Calyphia, the Avalons earned a Warrant of Trade for acts of uncommon heroism against an Ork Waaagh! back in M36, and with that Warrant of Trade became a power in their own right. The voyages of and exploits of the Avalon Dynasty served to increase Calyphia’s already substantial wealth, and soon the presence of the Avalon Dynasty formed a substantial part of the planetary economy. While the Avalons have never once tried to enter into the planetary government, such is their influence that all Calyphians acknowledge that this planet is essentially theirs.

 

dff198799fa0728d2adaa0c26796d6b91794743488.jpg

(Artist unknown)

THE HEX

Once called “a symbol of the larcenous virus that infects Kerberus” by Admiral Hallsmark, the Hex is infamous as a hub of smuggling, black market trade, and piracy throughout the sector. Originally an unremarkable listening station dating back to the days of the Great Crusade, the Hex was the site of a major space battle in M35 between Imperial forces and the armada of the Ork warlord Skargut, which saw the Orks defeated and Skargut’s personal space hulk, the Rok of Ages, shattered by a sustained bombardment. In the aftermath of the battle, however, local traders and merchants, seeing an opportunity, lashed together the disparate pieces of the space hulk, turning it into a waystation where they and their fellows could stop, refuel and rest between their long voyages into the void.

Over the centuries, what began as a free-floating structure evolved and expanded, as just about anyone with private interests and a ship tried to set up shop there. Numerous asteroids were hollowed out to form habitats and bases, connected to the structure by intertwining lines of cables, tunnels and supports. Similarly, several ships over the years have been attached to the ever-evolving structure as well, fused or even crashed together in untidy agglomerations that have simply become even more lopsided over the centuries. What began as a simple waystation now resembles a floating molecular structure of steel and rock, with dozens of smaller habitats, docks, outposts and private domains forming an interconnected web of steel around the original waystation at the heart of the Hex, which itself is now gigantic from centuries of expansion. As one helmsman once famously remarked, the Hex had its beginning from the remains of a space hulk, and now seems to have become one once again.

Within the many sub-stations, hollowed out asteroids and free floating structures of the Hex, anything and everything can be found, and anything and everything can be bought. Black market sales of drugs, fenced goods, illegal technology and outlawed medical practices are rife within the Hex, and without the Arbites, port authorities or the Inquisition keeping an eye on anyone, these deals happen freely in the open without fear of repercussion. Illegal trade in xenos artefacts and alien beasts occurs on a daily basis, and while at least one cadre of local scientists and experts have taken it upon themselves to mediate these transactions to limit bio-contamination (as an alien phage breaking out is always bad for business), there are no restrictions, checks or balances involved other than disagreements over price. Even the slave-trade, such as it is in the sector, has found a home in at least one of the habitats, and poor souls are bought and sold, or worse, modified, mind-scrubbed and psycho-conditioned, in the hundreds.

It is not only commercial pursuits that draw ne’er do wells to the Hex. Any and every vice imaginable can be found here, with narcotics, prostitution, pit fights and gambling simply being the most tame examples. Those who come to the Hex come from all walks of life in the sector: pirates and smugglers may find themselves doing business with free merchants or even rogue traders; recidivists take shelter here, staying one step ahead of any bounty hunters sent to retrieve them; free thinkers and heretics publish manifestos and attract followers in the same streets that Imperial missionaries preach their fiery screeds; tech-priests, augmenticists, flesh-artisans, rejuvenators, elixir-chemists and a thousand other experts in a thousand proscribed fields sell their services to any with the money and the time. It is not merely humans who visit the Hex, either– mutants are able to live there free of persecution, and it is not uncommon to see xenos stalking the streets, whether it be Kroot or Tarellian mercenaries, Sslyth bodyguards, Nicassar mystics, or even the odd Eldar Ranger.

It is no secret that the Hex is a focal point for vice, lawlessness and heresy within the sector, and in any other circumstance, the Imperial Navy would have come down like a hammer upon that station years ago. However, the much of the legitimate trade in the sector, for better or worse, goes through the Hex as well, as the station still fulfils an essential role as a vital way-station between most trade routes. Perhaps even more significantly, many planetary governments have economic interests (both legal and not) tied to mercantile traffic through the Hex. It is perhaps for this reason that, in its endless battle against piracy and smuggling, the Imperial Navy has gained no local support, whether it be material or political, for any proposed push against the Hex– something that frustrates Admiral Hallsmark, the commander of Battlefleet Kerberus, to no end.

 

dark_space_by_qaz2008-d4qp1nj118600204.jpg

(Image by QuAuZ at Deviantart)

THE CAIRN EXPANSE

Also known as Ghost Space, the Desolation and Nowhere, the Cairn Expanse is a mostly unexplored cluster of nebulae, asteroid belts and ancient stars to the galactic south-east of the Kerberus Sector. They have remained largely unexplored and unsettled for centuries, in part because most ships that enter that region never come back. The first ship that did come back– the free trader Asterion and her captain Jakov Orsmar– reported finding a system where strange anomalies caused his ship’s systems to go dead for hours on end, and where strange, sinister whispers were picked up on the ship’s vox. An expedition to the only habitable planet in the system found clusters of abandoned, ancient cities, hundreds of cairns dotting the marsh-like landscape, and a perpetual fog that at least thirty men got lost in, never to be found again.

That was but the first of many stories to come out of the Cairn Expanse, a name that came from the description of that first planet that Orsmar discovered. Tales have spread of sprawling city-sized tombs on long-dead worlds, of ancient, undisturbed ruins, and of a black star ringed by hundreds of wrecked and abandoned starships. There are tales of the Expanse being haunted, of ghost-ships that attack without warning and of eery signals that appear and then disappear on vox networks.

To date, no less than fifty ships have disappeared trying to enter the Cairn Expanse, and by comparison, only a handful have ever returned, with nothing to show of their voyage except tales of horror. In recent years, the Ordo Xenos of the Inquisition place a quarantine upon the entire region. However, with limited ships at its disposal, the Imperial Navy in the Kerberus Sector has been unable to effectively maintain this quarantine…and the tales of long-abandoned ruins continue to spur foolhardy adventurers into journeying into the Expanse…

warpstorm944642000.jpg

(Artist unknown)

THE GYRE

The Gyre has been a fixture of the Kerberus Sector as far back as any of its denizens remembers– the earliest Imperial records,that survived the Age of Apostasy make mention of the “great, violet wound upon the void,” and some of the oldest voidfarers mutter that the Gyre has been around since the days the Emperor walked among men. A warp storm measuring several thousand light years in width located in the galactic east of the sector, the Gyre takes the form of a swirling, star-shaped vortex of bilious gas-clouds and raging aetheric energy, tendrils of the great warp storm seemingly reaching out in all directions as though grasping at the material universe. In the millennia that the Gyre has existed, it has always remained unusually stable, maintaining its shape and position within the sector, though in those millennia it has never shown any sign of diminishing.

The debilitating effect that the presence of the Gyre has had on the sector is twofold. Firstly, the presence of such a large warp storm has impeded space travel in a significant part of the sector, forcing the adoption of lengthy, circuitous routes to avoid it altogether. The Gyre’s very presence, however, has been known to cause smaller, short-lived warp-squalls to flare up in surrounding regions of space, and to cause instability and turbulence in nearby warp routes. Far more debilitating, however, is the effect that the storm has had on the holy Astronomicon: due both to the intensity with which the Gyre rages and the sheer distance away of Holy Terra, the Astronomicon shines less dimly in many parts of the Kerberus Sector. This has been known to make warp travel and navigation riskier, and many ships have been forced to make use of ancient star-charts and memorized routes rather than relying solely on the Astronomicon.

Despite the many dangers of sailing into a warp storm, and despite the fact that the Inquisition has officially declared the Gyre to be off limits, more than a few brave or foolhardy adventurers have sailed into the storm. Those few that have returned have done so with tales of worlds unseen by human eyes, of pockets of stable space within the Gyre free of the touch of the warp, and of verdant, green worlds ripe for exploration and settlement. More than a few rumours have surfaced of ancient xeno ruins and treasures lying on those worlds. Whether such rumours are true or not, they have not stopped adventurers from sailing forth into the storm, braving the danger (and possible damnation) for fame and wealth…though there are many who argue that whatever lies at the heart of the Gyre cannot have remained untainted by the touch of the Warp…

warpstorm_717546024.jpg

(Art by Games Workshop)

THE VANISHING OF TETHYS

Prior to 999.M41, the world of Tethys was a rapidly-rising star on the economic promontory of the Kerberus Sector. An aquatic world located just to the galactic southwest of the Gyre, Tethys was a magnificent jewel of glimmering green seas, continent-sized beds of algae and tangled island chains. For most of its history, it had been considered a backwater, its few landmasses inhabited by an impoverished population and its floating cities ruled by bickering noble families mostly interested in cultivating old grudges and clinging to their petty fiefdoms, and by a line of planetary governors more interested in lining their pockets than in paying their world’s tithes. Production was at an all time low, and even worse, the superstitious, pre-Imperial cults, who worshipped of the ancient, monstrous leviathans that stalked Tethys’ oceans, still practised their heretical rituals behind closed doors.

A timely census by the Administratum, however, eventually revealed the depth of the government’s corruption, and in the ensuing political fallout, the governor of the time was deposed and one of the newer nobility, Brigitte L’Oiseaux, was installed in his place. Under L’Oiseaux’s tenure, Tethys’ tithes were not only met, but also exceeded, its fisheries and kelp farms suddenly feeding much of the sector. At the same time, Tethys’ star ports were opened up even further to offworld trade, and raw materials, vital infrastructural services and offworld luxuries were brought in in exchange for the planet’s growing market of sea-beast hides and aquatic delicacies. Imperial authorities such as the Arbites and the Ecclesiarchy were strengthened and made more visible, and after a vigorous purge, the heretical cults of Tethys were pushed back into the shadows and margins of society, forced now to live in fear of discovery.

Almost overnight, Tethys’ economic woes were reversed, and its people were soon enjoying a standard of living almost unheard of in their long history. Within a few years, Tethys had grown to enjoy such a position of wealth and influence that there was even rumour that the sector capital might be moved there.

And then, seemingly at the height of its grandeur, disaster fell upon Tethys. In one dark night, the oceanic leviathans– each a fabled monster in its own right– went into a frenzy all at once, attacking beyond their territories and devouring or savaging all they came across. Psykers all over the planet began to scream, and many were simply obliterated in eruptions of empyric energy that caused massive destruction and loss of life. Above Tethys, the normally indigo night sky suddenly became the sickly violet of an infected wound, and actinic lightning stabbed across its suddenly turbulent atmosphere. Acid and fire rained from the heavens, and gale force winds tossed floating buildings and settlements into the air like children’s toys. And then, in what seemed like the blink of an eye, the Warp itself swept over Tethys in an apocalyptic surge, and the planet was simply gone.

News of Tethys’ disappearance was slow to reach the rest of the sector at first, but when it did, it took on a much more horrifying aspect than the simple vanishing of a world. All stellar cartographae in the sector soon confirmed the same thing: the Gyre had expanded. A tendril of the storm, like that of a starfish lazily reaching out, had extended to envelop the Tethys system completely. The news sent ripples of shock throughout the sector government at Kerberus Prime, the shipyards at Calyphia and the naval command at Port Warden. Economies tied by interstellar trade to Tethys went into freefall, and panic and confusion reigned on populated worlds, the Adeptus Arbites desperately trying to maintain order as ordinary citizens screamed that the end times had come. Across the sector, soothsayers and diviners began experiencing visions of destruction, anarchy and death, and the sheer empyric feedback of the warp-event caused dozens of ships to be thrown violently off course as their Navigators and Astropaths suffered seizures or went mad.

In all of its long history, the roiling tides of the Gyre had never before shifted position or expanded. That they had not only done so now, but, in the process, enveloped a major Imperial world, was shocking in the extreme, and hundreds of explanations arose as a result. Some claimed that it was divine punishment for the sins of Tethys and its populace, while others claimed it was the work of xenos, harnessing the warp itself as a weapon against the Imperium. Others still claimed some strange artefact or anomaly on Tethys must have attracted the warp like a magnet, while those knowledgeable of Tethysian lore whispered that perhaps the ancient leviathans, still worshipped in secret by so many on that lost world, might have done this somehow. To many others, however, the fact that a warp storm had just swallowed a major Imperial world spoke of darker, deeper implications, and feared that the eye of the storm now gazed ever more hungrily upon the rest of the sector…

An upcoming Rogue Trader campaign, and the perils of GMing

(Art by Games Workshop & Fantasy Flight Games)

So, one thing I’ve recently decided to do on this blog is post summaries and anecdotes of RPG sessions I’ve been involved in. This decision comes too late for the last campaign I was in, sadly, because when I started the blog it was already a third of the way through, and I didn’t want to have to rely on my faulty memory to backtrack and explain who the characters were, what had happened so far, etc etc. Which is a pity, because the campaign in question was absolutely hilarious (essentially a Rifts campaign set in the multiverse of Rick and Morty).*

The next campaign for my group, however, is one I’m going to run. Now, I am no stranger to GMing: my first effort was several years ago, and was essentially using the Aberrant rules to the setting of the Marvel Universe (at the time I didn’t know of, or have access to, the official Marvel RPG rules, and unfortunately even if I wanted to switch over now it would screw over the legacy characters). The group was essentially “Omega Flight,” the Canadian government’s more hush-hush version of Alpha Flight, and I had them facing off against an ongoing conspiracy involving mutation-inducing flowers and extradimensional robots. It was a bit of a clunky mess, as it was my first time GMing, and often I found myself stumbling quite a bit in trying to get the players from plot point A to plot point B (especially at one point when the party obsessed minor detail that was of no relevance to the plot). It didn’t help that I found it difficult to create villains who could actually threaten the party, since one of my players had min-maxed his character to become a nigh-unstoppable battering ram.

Still, it was a fun experience, my party enjoyed themselves, and I learned a lot of valuable lessons about how to GM properly. This led to a sequel campaign a few years later, and while it had its own clunky moments, I like to think that, story-wise, it actually turned out a lot better. If there were any issues I had looking back at that campaign, it was that I found myself turning into a bit of a control freak and railroading players far too often– something that I have since tried to be aware of.

My last campaign, though, was about two years ago, and was a much more daring (and flawed) undertaking: a Rifts campaign set in the Fallout universe (in particular, in post-apocalyptic Canada). I had a blast setting up this campaign: I wanted the experience to emulate the Fallout games as much as possible, rather than just be another Rifts game, and to that end, I set about creating my own set of house rules that included rules for radiation, character/race rules for Super Mutants and Ghouls, and above all, perks. In addition, I spent a huge amount deciding what post-apocalyptic Southern Ontario was like.  Aside from the ruined city of Ronto (which is canon in Fallout), I had a blast renaming certain locations in Ontario (Markham and Huntsville became Arkham and Hunter’s Vale, for instance), and creating things like major environmental/geological hazards, new mutated creatures, and outlining the various factions and individuals vying for power in this region (including the Peacekeepers of Ronto, the Enclave remnants and the Ojibwe Confederacy). Above all, I tried to stick to as much of a pseudo-1960s feel as possible, even to the point of making a playlist of thematic 50s and 60s songs to play on Youtube while the party was travelling in-game.

Unfortunately, at this time, I was also studying for a major HR certification exam that was a major source of worry and stress for me. To make matters worse, work was a constant and time-consuming factor for me, and I would often arrive home too mentally and physically exhausted to devise things for the next weekend session. To make matters worse, I just could not figure out the Rifts rules, no matter how much I tried, and so frequently throughout the session I was faced with difficult questions and, even worse, annoyance from players who knew the system better than me. All of these factors resulted in the campaign becoming clunky and haphazard, and there was more than one occasion when I found myself getting frustrated in-session. It didn’t help that I had no clear idea of where I wanted the campaign to ultimately go, and soon my lack of direction and vision was becoming evident.

It was about midway through where I had originally wanted to end that we reached a good break point. At this point, my party suggested we end here for now, as my stress and anxiety were not only becoming evident, but were also having a visibly detrimental effect on the campaign. And so, my Fallout campaign came to an end as a clunky, poorly-executed mess, and to date, we still have not gone back to it. In part, this is because I no longer know how it will end, or indeed, what the major plot point of it is even supposed to be anymore. This campaign remains a major source of disappointment for me, as I had really wanted to do right by the setting, and feel that I ultimately was not able to do it justice or make it fun for my party.

It goes without saying that this time around, I am hoping to do much better. This time around I will be running a Rogue Trader campaign, and though this is another system that I had to learn from scratch, I am a little more confident this time. Partly, it is because my life feels a little less chaotic right now, but also it is because there were a huge number of player and GM aids printed for Rogue Trader before Games Workshop pulled its license away from Fantasy Flight Games (something that I am still annoyed about, because FFG’s 40k roleplaying books were amazing). More importantly, Warhammer 40k is a setting that I know the background of intimately, and Rogue Trader featured plenty of campaign books that I intend to borrow a lot of elements from. And best of all, Rogue Trader is a campaign where, if nothing else is coming to mind, I can simply trust my players to follow an endeavour, and see what randomness space decides to throw their way.

I hope to post more on my upcoming campaign soon– the characters, the background, and above all, the weekly sessions as soon as it begins. Wish me luck, internet!

 

*If anyone DOES want me to share what happened in Rifts and Morty (as the GM has called it), please let me know.

Thoughts: The return of Jean-Luc Picard and the current state of Star Trek

(Photo: CBS/Getty)

 

So, I wanted to share my thoughts, as a lifelong Trekkie, on the news of Sir Patrick Stewart returning to Star Trek. As has been reported by a million and a half news outlets now (here it is on The Verge, just for your edification),  Sir Patrick has signed on to a new Star Trek series in the works that will explore ““the next chapter of Picard’s life.” As someone who practically grew up watching Star Trek: The Next Generation, my initial reaction, of course, was giddy excitement, a lot of jumping up and down and indecipherable whooping noise, but once the initial excitement settled down, I pondered, and became a little more perturbed on the issue. At the moment, my opinions on the return of Jean-Luc Picard are somewhat mixed.

I say this for a number of reasons. On the one hand, as I mentioned before, this is very exciting news for a fan of TNG. Patrick Stewart’s Jean-Luc Picard was the face of the show, the moral and ethical centre that held together a crew of scientists, engineers, and occasional philosophers. While Picard was not a perfect captain by any stretch of the imagination (there are lengthy debates among Trekkies over how selective Picard was in his adherance to the Prime Directive), Stewart delivered his lines with such gravitas that it was impossible not to pay attention to him– I recall one commentator saying that Stewart could read a grocery list and make it sound compelling. A plethora of endlessly quotable lines  (“Engage,” “Make it so,” and any time he called Commander Riker “Number One”) and admittedly quite powerful speeches simply cemented Picard’s status as, arguably, the pillar upon which the show rested.

However, as far as anyone knows, Picard’s return will be a solo one, without any of his old crew there with him. As of this time, there has been no confirmation of any of the other old TNG cast returning for this show. On the one hand, I am fine with this, as I don’t want to see them try to make “TNG: Part 2.” However, the fact that Picard’s return is a solitary one, happening in a storyline that (presumably) takes place years after the events of TNG, feels strangely jarring to me. In my opinion, the season finale of TNG and the movies rounded off TNG and gave it….maybe not a satisfactory ending (Star Trek: Nemesis was anything but that), but a sense of closure all the same. To suddenly bring Picard back after years of TNG being off the air, after I had long accepted that his story was done, feels strange to me and disrupts this feeling of closure. I had always worked under the assumption that if I ever wanted to look at Picard’s post-TNG years, that I should turn to the various novels, comics, etc that the franchise has churned out. Now that they are actually answering this question with an actual show, I’m wondering if those said books and comics will be nullified from canon, much as the expanded universe of Star Wars was when the newer batch of movies came out.

Then there’s the nagging feeling that pulling Picard back into Star Trek is in and of itself an act of desperation. The last time an old character was brought on as major character on a Star Trek show, it was when they brought Worf onto Deep Space Nine…and that was a transparent attempt to bring back viewers. This feels like the exact same thing: “Hey, we know you have all have mixed feelings on Discovery, but hey, Picard is coming back! Exciting, huh?” Some may argue, though, that adding Worf to the show did in fact boost its ratings, and his presence did a lot to bolster the storyline by bringing in an entire Klingon subplot and cast of side characters (including Martok, the greatest Klingon to ever grace the screen), and I will admit that Deep Space Nine, especially in its later seasons, competes fiercely with The Next Generation as my favourite Star Trek show. Even so, Worf’s presence on the show, lengthy as it was, never felt any less forced or artificial for me. Perhaps the new Picard series may be just what Star Trek needs as an alternative to Discovery.

Speaking of Discovery, the current writing and directorial team in charge of the franchise leaves me feeling uneasy (despite the fact that Michael Chabon apparently is on the writing team for the new Picard series). I won’t hesitate to say that my enthusiasm for Discovery went cold pretty quickly, and while it is not a terrible show by any stretch of the imagination, it is not one that managed to sustain my interest either. Between horribly transparent plot twists, a protagonist I fell out of love with fairly quickly, a central plot that wasn’t sure what it wanted to do and a cast I really didn’t care too much about (barring one or two characters), Discovery brought nothing new to the table while at the same time doing nothing to give me a reason to stay. Of course, maybe the show just needed a season to find its feet, and will improve with time. Maybe they will apply the lessons they learned to the new Picard show. Maybe.

I’ll keep my fingers crossed, of course, and hopefully, whoever will be writing the new show will know what to do with the bestest captain ever (I will fight anyone who says otherwise). But until then, I can’t even be cautiously optimistic. Just cautious.